Exploring adolescents' experiences of aggression in a secondary school context
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This article offers a perspective on adolescents' experiences of aggression in a secondary school, with a focus on the manifestation, contributing factors, consequences, and learners' opinions on aggression. An inductive qualitative research approach was chosen, where learners wrote about their experiences and participated in focused semi-structured interviews. Central themes were derived by means of thematic content analysis. The results revealed that a substantial number of learners experienced negative feelings about aggression at school and that aggression was related to individual characteristics, the adolescent's developmental stage, socialisation, status, competition, home environment, prior experiences, learnt behaviour and the effect of the media and music. Aggression was present among all genders. ages and cultures in school. It seemed to have a higher prevalence among boys, but was also significantly present among girls. Physical and emotional bullying had a high prevalence. which showed that bullying is problematic at schools. Passive aggression was mostly present in the form of oppositional behaviour towards authorities at school and educators are often verbally abused and ignored by learners, but their classrooms are also damaged. Individual characteristics, interpersonal relationships, multicultural interaction and a lack of sufficient social skills contributed towards many acts of aggression. Aggression was prominent in the reciprocal relationships between adolescents and their social environment. Being part of a group and forming a social identity are very important. Confiding in groups may expose learners to peer pressure, which may lead to activities and behaviour that are aggressive in nature. There were reports of discrimination and it seemed that learners get along better with others who share an equal status. This may possibly explain why aggression seemed less between white English-speaking and black English-learners, while it was more common between white Afrikaans and white/black English-speaking learners. Increased social contact between members of different social groups could reduce prejudice if these persons have an equal status. Exposure to aggression had emotional consequences, and some learners were prone to feelings of anger, fear, depression, being controlled and a loss of self-content. Behavioural responses included retaliation, pacifism, vandalism and suicide. Exposure to aggression (directly and indirectly) provoked several responses. These responses may be emotional or behavioural in nature. Emotions such as fear and anger and feeling overwhelmed, depressed and helpless may be elicited in response to aggression. Some learners may retaliate towards an aggressive incident through physical or verbal behaviour; others may withdraw and avoid social interactions. Learners may direct their aggression towards others (people and objects) or themselves. In the case of the latter, it may lead to depression, self-harm or even suicide. No single factor propels an adolescent to act aggressively. Instead, the causes of such behaviour are complex and multifaceted. Most participants in this research experienced aggression at school as unhealthy. Aggression may have emotional and behavioural consequences such as disruption, discomfort and disturbance of normal functioning. Although aggression seemed relatively under control at this particular school, there are signs of an increase in aggression and in the severity of some of the incidents, and of the possibility of desensitisation towards aggression, with the agonising possibility that aggression is serving as a form of entertainment for some learners. The need for learner involvement, school guidance programmes and life-skill training was prominent, accompanied by the need for school counsellors to assist in the management of aggression. Teachers must have better knowledge of the adolescent developmental phase so that they could understand and identify behavioural problems among learners.
- ETD@PUK