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Topic Description



Background of the Study

Primary education could be regarded as the most important as well as the most patronized by people. This perhaps may be due to the fact that it is the foundation of the whole educational pursuit, which is expected to provide literacy and enlightenment to the citizen s. The importance of primary education can therefore be seen in the sense that all beneficiaries of the other levels of education by necessity have to pass through this level (Oni, 2008). Yet some pupils find it difficult to pass through this level of education because of the bullying behaviour of other pupils.

  Bullying may be defined as the activity of repeated, aggressive behavior intended to hurt another person physically or mentally (Elliot, 1999). According to Rigby (2002) bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which there is an imbalance of power favouring the perpetrators; it is regarded as unjustified, typically repeated and experienced by the perpetrators as enjoyable. Nickle (2005) also defined bullying as the intentionally unprovoked abuse of power by one or more children to inflict pain or cause distress to another child on repeated occasions. Behaviour is the range of actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with themselves or their environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the (inanimate) physical environment. It is the response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary.

A bully intends to hurt, threaten or frighten a victim. Ikeagu (2005) pointed out that bullying is an act where an older person frightens people who are weak; the older person goes on, using pugilistic energy to beat up a helpless apparently innocent younger child. It is a disordered behavioral problem. Obineli (2006) defined bullying behaviour as any of the many disordered behavior manifested by a child of school age towards his/her peers or those below the child’s group; the aim is to intimidate, frighten, oppress, harass with a view to obtaining undue advantage over others. The behavior can be habitual and involves an imbalance of social or physical power. According to Olewus (2012), bullying behaviour includes verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims perhaps on grounds of class, race, religion, gender, sexuality, appearance, behavior or ability. Bullying can be done by a group of people. Davenport, Schwart and Elliot (1999) explained bullying behaviour as one or more pupils seeking to have power over other pupils through the use of verbal, physical or emotional harassment, intimidation or isolation. A bully can operationally be seen as one who intentionally exercises unprovoked abuse of power on other children to inflict pain or cause distress to other children on repeated occasions.

United States National Centre for Education statistics (2001) suggested that bullying can be classified into two categories namely: direct bulling and indirect bullying or social aggression. Direct bullying according to Ross (2012) involves a great deal of physical aggression such as shoving and poking, throwing things, slapping, choking, punching and kicking, beating, stabbing, pulling hair, scratching and pinching (Ross, 2012). Ross indicated that social aggression or indirect bullying is characterized by attempting to socially isolate the victim. This isolation is achieved through a wide variety of techniques including spreading gossips, refusing to socialize with the victim, and criticizing the victim’s manner of dress and other socially significant marker (Ross, 2012). One can rightly say that bullying involves both violent and non violent behavior such as beating, choking, manipulating or arguing others into submission, spreading false rumours and gossips, laughing at the victims, even saying words that can trigger a reaction from a past event etc.; it is a negative thinking pattern.

The manifestation of bullying is one of the most pervasive problems in primary schools today. Bullying in schools is an age long behavior problem. The incident is increasing daily and media reports on it are regular. The dimensions involved are becoming more sophisticated. In recent times, there exists digital or cyber bullying which involves using cell phones and computers to send menacing text messages or creating threatening and hate filled web pages about a victim including personal information (Ross, 2012).

Bullying has become a widespread topic of conversation in and out of schools in Obollo-Afor Education Zone. Although, some people still have the impression that bullying behavior is just “children being children or a rite of passage and as such often neglected”, many educators are not taking the subject lightly because it has serious implications for children who are victimized by bullies and for those who perpetrate the act (Ugwu, 2012). Observations have shown that primary school children, especially those in Obollo-Afor Education Zone are overly aggressive or controlling towards their peers; un-motivating towards academic achievement, have risk of stress related illness; have long term emotional and behavioral problems; experience loneliness, depression, anxiety; leading to low self esteem; attempting suicide and increased susceptibility to illness (Ugwu, 2012).

A rapidly growing body of research over the past 15 years has shown that both bullies and victims are at risk for short-term and long term adjustment difficulties such as academic problems (Adeoye, 2008; Batsche & Koff, 1994; Carney & Marrele, 2001; Egbochukwu, 2008). Rimpela and Rantenen added that they have psychological difficulties, while Craig and Pepler (2003) and Olewus (1995) maintained that they exhibit social relationship problems. Sanderman (1996) rightly observed that victims of bully typically are unhappy children who suffer from fear, anxiety and low self esteem. As a result, they may be so distressed that they may want to commit or attempt to commit suicide. On the other hand, Ikeagu (2005) asserts that because of constant school failures in the face of the younger children, the bully on his own part develops inferiority complex and a sense of worthlessness. In addition, his behavior makes him unpopular and notorious among his peers and the general school community. The bully is equally under tension because he is not certain of the school management’s decision about his unwholesome activities. For Obetta (2010) the victims of bullying report fear of going to school; show evidence of deteriorating work, accompanied by a lessening of interest in school/work; become upset or emotional for the smallest reason; physical symptoms of illness, progressive lower levels of self-esteem, higher levels of depression and diminished ability to learn in school. This is because bullying takes place in nearly every part in or around the school building like during physical education classes and activities, recess, hallways, on school buses, in the class that requires group work and after school activities. In fact, the negative effect of bullying prevents pupils who are victims from enjoying conducive learning environment (Ugwu, 2012). All these could lead to post traumatic stress disorder and an inability to form affectionate relationship (O’Moore, 2000).

One factor that is suspected to influence the attitudes of bullies is gender. Halpern-Felsher (2012) defined gender as the social and psychological aspects of being female or male. Gender goes beyond biological sex to include a person’s understanding of the meaning to one’s own life being male or a female. Thus, Halper-Felhser (2012) noted that qualities such as assertiveness, bravery, independence, strength, rationality and dominance are attributed to male gender while qualities of nurturing, warmth, gentility, emotional and sensitivity are attributed to the female gender. This explains why boys and girls have different ways of expressing their aggression. Boys are more likely to use physical bullying such as pushing, slapping, kicking and verbal threats whereas girls are more likely to use indirect forms such as rumour spreading and social ostracism. Cornell and Loper (1998), Long and Morrson (1998) and other researchers like Hope, Burms, Hyes (2010) noted that males tend to be more physically aggressive while females favour exclusion and mockery.

Findings on gender and bullying are varied. Some researchers report that the number of boys and that of girls involved in bullying are equal (Slee, 1998) while others have found that more boys are bullies (Cornell & Loper, 1998). Rigby and Slee (1999) indicated that similar results have emerged from some other studies on gender and bullying methods. Girls who bully are more apt to utilize more of enforcing social isolation (Ahmed & Smith, 1999). Whether bullying is direct or indirect, the key component of bullying is that physical or psychological intimidation occurs repeatedly overtime to create an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse. The question that comes to mind is whether gender has any influence on bullying among primary school pupils.

Primary school is the first stage of formal education. In Nigeria, Primary Education generally is preceded by pre-school or nursery education. The Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN, 2004) in the National Policy on Education defines primary education as education for children aged 6 to 11 years. The policy stipulated the duration for primary education as 6 years.

Efforts have been made by parents, school, staff and other caring adults in the community to prevent bullying. According to Ugwu (2012) various measures have been applied to bullies to control and reduce bullying such as  scolding, flogging, manual labour, digging pits, washing toilets, kneeling down till school gets over, making bullies replace items they forcefully collected, suspension, expulsion etc, yet these measures could not control bullies. Hence, bullying behavior is on the increase. It is suspected that the failure of these measures is as a result of the fact that they are external imposition on bullies. This agitated the mind of the researcher to seek behavior modification techniques appropriate to the problem like cognitive restructuring. This is necessary because bullying is acquired as learned behavior and therefore, it can be unlearned (Bandura, 2000). In the western world, much attention has been devoted to stemming the act of bullying but in Nigeria this act still goes on in many schools unnoticed (Esere & Idowu, 2008).

Cognitive restructuring is a practical application of the principles of psychology especially learning principles to modify irrational behaviors. In cognitive psychology and cognitive engineering, cognition is typically assumed to be information processing in a participant’s or operator’s mind or brain (Sternberg, & Sternberg, 2009). Restructuring is bringing about a drastic or fundamental internal change that alters the relationships between different components or elements of an organization or system.

Cognitive restructuring is therefore a scientific and systematic way of changing undesirable behavior to a desirable one. In modifying interpersonal behavior such as bullying, cognitive restructuring could be applied. This is because cognitive restructuring has been utilized with positive results in different types of cognitive disorders like depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, marital distress, anger, internalized childhood disorder, sexual offending. It is suspected to yield positive results when applied to bullies (Strayhorn, 2003).

Cognitive restructuring is in form of personal construct theory propounded by Keely (1999) which aims at re-evaluating, revising or discarding negative constructs. Cognitive restructuring is defined by King (2011) as a general concept for changing a pattern of thought that is presumed to be causing maladaptive behavior or emotions. This change in the pattern of thought is what bullies need. According to Strayhorn (2003) the basic idea of cognitive restructuring is that people’s emotions and behaviors can be greatly affected by what they think. Hence, Essauman, Nwaogu and Nwachukwu (1990) suggested cognitive restructuring as an attempt to teach a client how to reduce negative emotional reactions by getting him interpret situations with greater accuracy. To put it in a popular language, cognitive restructuring is an attempt to get the individual to avoid crooked thinking and think straight. The four steps in cognitive restructuring are: identification of problematic cognitions as automatic thoughts which are dysfunctional or negative views of the self, world or future, based upon already existing beliefs; identification of the cognitive distortions in the automatic thoughts; rational disputation of automatic thought with Socratic ones; to development of a rational rebuttal to the automatic thoughts. For instance, the commonly used method in cognitive restructuring involves: Identifying and labeling distorted thoughts such as all or none thinking; disqualifying the positive mental filtering; jumping to conclusions, catastrophizing, emotional reasoning including statements and personalizing.   Thus the acquisition of cognitive restructuring strategy by bullies will enable them re-evaluate their negative thought patterns and make sense of the world. This is because cognitive restructuring explains human behavior in terms of the internal processes used by the individual for increasing the understanding of the world (Ellis, 1990). The purpose or focus of cognitive interventions is not to teach “positive thinking” or prove to the clients that their thoughts are faulty, erroneous or irrational rather the focus is on helping the client to get a more realistic perspective about him/herself and “real” world (Hofman & Asmundson, 2008:18). When this is achieved, the client will better organize experiences/improve on the client’s social life within the environment.

The major task facing the therapist engaged in cognitive restructuring is how to modify the client’s distorted perceptions of the world because inaccurate interpretations of the realities of life arises from the nature of the mental set which a person brings to his experience. If the dominant disposition is negative; that is, negative construct, reaction to human events cannot but be along such a line. The opposite is the case if the disposition is positive. It is assumed by behavior therapist like Ellis (1990) that a person’s interpretation of reality determines his response to it.

Therefore, cognitive restructuring could make the shift possible especially at this early stage of life or primary education when young children are being formed cognitively and the process which brings about attitudinal or perceptual behavioral outcomes are still under control. The pupil could make the final decisions to behave in whatever manner that will give him positive gains in life. Investigating the extent cognitive restructuring could bring about attitudinal or perceptual behavioral outcomes among pupils with bullying behaviour in Obollo-Afor Education zone motivated this study.

Statement of the Problem

Bullying involves a great deal of physical and social aggression. Bullying has disastrous consequences on the bullied and the bully. The negative effect of bullying is eating deeply into the primary education system in Obollo-Afor Education Zone. Victims receive physical harm and experience lasting social, psychological and/or academic problems. It disrupts the enabling environment for effective learning. It prevents the victims from enjoying a safe stress-free learning environment. This is evidenced in school children expressing unhappiness in school and reluctance to get up in the morning; they feel apprehensive leaving school; taking unusual routes home; deteriorating work accompanied by a lessening of interest in school work; failures in examination; become upset or emotional for the smallest reason; experience loneliness, depression, anxiety, low self concept; drop out from school. The bullies are not left out. They equally experience social and academic problems. Bullying as an anti-social behavior can create problems of interaction; making and keeping friends and other relationship problems on the bully. In addition, the nature of punishment they receive could keep them out of school, classroom or class work. These factors have retarding effect on learning. Furthermore, the amount of time the bullies spend in playing, on the type of bullying they will carry out and how, when and where to carry it out can also negatively impact on their learning. Ordinarily, such wasted time could usefully be channeled into their studies. All these have negative effect on the individual learning and academic achievement. Earlier researchers probably indicated measures adopted by teachers, school staff in fighting this canker worm. Those measures are external imposition on bullies and are ineffective or inadequate or might be reinforcing behaviors. Evidence from western countries tends to suggest that cognitive restructuring strategy as an internal imposition has the potential for changing maladjusted behavior to normal behavior. How cognitive restructuring strategy would affect the bullying behavior of Nigerian primary school pupils who operate in a different socio-cultural environment is yet to be determined.

Therefore, the problem of this study put in a question form is: what is the effect of cognitive restructuring strategy on bullying among primary school pupils in Obollo-Afor Education Zone?

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study was to determine the effect of cognitive restructuring strategy on bullying among primary school pupils in Obollo-Afor Education Zone.

Specifically, the study sought to:-

  1. Determine the effect of cognitive restructuring strategy on bullying among primary school pupils.
  2. Determine the effect of gender on bullying among primary school pupils based on exposure to cognitive restructuring strategy
  3. Determine the interaction effect of cognitive restructuring strategy and gender on bullying among primary school pupils

Significance of the study

This study has some theoretical as well as practical significance. The study has some theoretical significance for the cognitive restructuring theory by Albert Ellis. Thus, cognitive restructuring theory aims at explaining human behavior in terms of the internal processes used by the individual for increasing the understanding of his world. Such understanding increases the individual’s true freedom and allows more opportunity for personal growth. Applying this theory to bullies will make them reconstruct their cognition to adjust well in their environment. The finding of this study will be relevant in promoting this theory since cognitive restructuring has the ability to change automatic thoughts through rational disputation of distorted thoughts that could lead to bullying others.

Practically, the study will be beneficial to pupils, teachers, parents, caregivers, guidance counselors, educational psychologists, school administrators and researchers when published. Teachers, parents, care givers guidance counselors, educational psychologists, may adopt cognitive restructuring strategy as a behavior modification tool in modifying the maladaptive behaviors of their clients, pupils and children. This will make them drop some maladaptive behaviors in their cognition and make good sense of the world. When this is achieved, the academic achievement of the child will improve; there will be reduced dropout rate of pupils. The education industry in the community will improve and general economic development will also improve.

It is possible that some parents, teachers and care-providers have not heard about cognitive restructuring strategy. The findings of this study therefore would help create awareness, highlight the importance of cognitive restructuring strategy in primary schools, and sensitize teachers, parents, care givers as well as provide them with the necessary skills. The findings of this study may help bullies who will be exposed to cognitive restructuring strategy training programme to examine their negative thought patterns, irrational beliefs and negative self-talk and then learn to refute such thought and replace them with more accurate and helpful ones in order to adjust well in the society.

School Administrators may gain deeper insights into their role as instructional leaders and supervisors of the teaching learning process by providing information on the effect of cognitive restructuring strategy on bullying among primary school pupils. For instance, the Federal and State Governments, Institutions of Higher Learning, Ministries of Education, could use the findings of this study, and be motivated to organize conferences, seminars and workshops for teachers on the effect of cognitive restructuring strategy on bullying among primary school pupils. These workshops and seminars could be designed to provide in-service training for teachers on how to design and undertake the effect of cognitive restructuring strategy on bullying among primary school pupils.

The influence of gender on cognitive restructuring strategy and bullying is another area of importance.  The study will reveal which gender benefited more from the cognitive restructuring strategy. The finding would help to change the tacit belief in Obollo-Afor Education zone that males are aggressive and are more likely to be bullies while the females are the victims of bullying. This would encourage teachers, parents, caregivers, guidance counselors, educational psychologists, school administrators and researchers not to discriminate against any gender group when matters relating to bullying are being discussed. The teachers would also learn to eliminate the discriminating statements or behaviours that make a particular gender feel superior or inferior to the other.

Future researchers may benefit from this endeavour in such a way that the result may be used as a guide in conducting similar study and development methods to increase the use of cognitive restructuring strategy and other peer-mediated interventions within school settings.

Scope of the study

The study will cover all identified 2014/2015 elementary five pupils with bullying behaviour in public primary schools in Obollo-Afor Education Zone of Enugu State. The subjects will be from two primary schools in Obollo-Afor Education Zone. The study focuses on the effects of cognitive restructuring strategy programme on bullying among primary school pupils in Obollo-Afor Education Zone. Employing cognitive restructuring strategy programme, the training will aim at helping bullies acquire cognitive restructuring skills that will in turn help them correct their irrational beliefs and negative thought patterns that make them aggressive and propel them to act negatively and think crookedly. The elements of cognitive restructuring strategy involves, interviewing the client to diagnose his/her problem, knowing the realities of the client’s life, marking out lines of actions for possible solutions of his problems, evaluation of actions.


Research Questions

The following research questions guided the study:

  • What is the difference in the mean bullying scores of pupils exposed to cognitive restructuring strategy and of those that were not exposed to?
  • What is the effect of gender on the mean bullying scores of pupils based on exposure to cognitive restructuring strategy?

What is the interaction effect of cognitive restructuring strategy and gender on the mean bullying scores of pupils