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Thursday, September 29, 2011

School Disorganization is one Major Contributor to School Violence

Victimization theory identified individual characteristics associated with perceived vulnerability as the individual predictors of fear of crime. However, it is important to identify the difference in the vulnerability between crimes and peer victimization at school. School violence and bullying mostly occur within the same gender group and age group (Akiba, 2004; Owens, Slee, & Shute, 2001; Smith et al., 1999). In addition, the students with the highest risk of victimization at school have different characteristics from the individuals with the highest risk of crime victimization on the street (Gibson, et al., 2002; Kanan & Pruitt, 2002; Katz, et al., 2003; Smith et al.). Therefore, studies on bullying and school violence victimization needs to be further reviewed to identify individual predictors of fear of school violence.

Social disorganization theory and social integration theory are associated because empirical studies on crime rates have shown that a higher level of social disorganization, measured by poverty level, immigrant concentration, and residential mobility, predicts a lower level of social integration or collective efficacy (Sampson, Morenoff, & Earls, 1999; Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997). Specifically, Sampson et al. (1997) found that the relationship between social disorganization and neighborhood violence was largely mediated by collective efficacy. This relationship may apply to the school settings. The schools characterized by disorganization—a lack of resources and high levels of teacher turnover and student mobility—may be less likely to develop collective efficacy, and a lower level of collective efficacy predicts a higher level of student fear of school violence.  

It is important to note, however, that unlike communities where collective efficacy is developed by an informal mechanism among residents to achieve public order, the collective efficacy at school can be formally developed through school administrators’ and teachers’ practices. Therefore, it is possible to develop collective efficacy in school environments characterized by poverty and urban location—the proxies of school disorganization. For this reason, the measures of school disorganization and school community were developed separately, and the relationship between these measures was examined before investigating how these factors predict student fear of school violence.

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