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School Violence in the Eyes of the Beholders: An Integrative Aggression-Victimization Perspective

NCJ Number
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Volume: 46 Issue: 5 Dated: October 2002 Pages: 603-618
Ronit Laskov-Peled; Yuval Wolf
Date Published
October 2002
16 pages
This study tested the notion that perceptions of aggression and victimization can hold implications for violent behavior.
In this study, the authors were primarily interested in perceptions of aggression and victimization by those people involved in violent incidents. More specifically, it has been postulated that violent behavior has its roots in early childhood, thus this article tests the way in which elementary school children understand aggression and victimization. The authors conducted five experiments with third and fourth grade children that probed the expectations that perpetrators could expect from their victims. The children were asked to imagine incidents of violence in which four of their classmates were the perpetrators and other classmates were the victims. The children imagined the reactions of the victims to the perpetrator. Three specific reactions were tested: that the victim would deliver tangible rewards for the violence, that the victim would display signs of suffering, and that the victim would retaliate against the perpetrator. The results showed that in most cases the victims were perceived as likely to deliver tangible rewards to the perpetrator in response to the violence. The children did not put much emphasis on the prospects of retaliation by the victim and suffering by the victim. Overall, the authors show that it is possible and desirable to merge Bandura’s conception of perpetrators’ expectations from victims with Anderson’s functional theory of cognition. Moreover, in terms of practical implications from this research, the authors urge caution as more research is necessary. However, they do suggest that if educators put more emphasis on the values of empathy and tolerance, the weight given to a victims’ suffering should increase and the expectation of tangible rewards for violence may decrease. Tables, references