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Sense of Normative Behavior and Bullying 1 (1995)

Source: Monograph vol.54 edited by Educational Research Center, Benesse Corporation
(Supervising Editor : Dr. Masashi Fukaya, professor, Shobi Junior College)


1. INTRODUCTION: Theme Background

Students are said to be changing. Have they actually changed? A chronological comparison is necessary to study what changes have occurred.

A survey of junior-school students was conducted in 1983 and the content of the survey appeared to be valid for studying the present situation. In May 1995, I used the same questionnaire to conduct a survey. This enabled me to study how student awareness changed between 1983 and 1995.

The findings of the survey were reported in Monograph Vol. 51, "Have Junior High School Students Changed?" In the report, I was surprised to find that the sensitivity towards normative behavior or standard of conduct has eroded. As an example, in 1983, 65% of the students surveyed felt it was very bad to borrow or ride an unlocked bicycle without permission. However, in 1995, students who felt this way declined to 47%. Students who felt that it was bad to use someone's umbrella on a rainy day without permission declined from 57% in 1983 to 42% in 1995. Furthermore, students who felt that it was bad to borrow someone's gym shoes without permission declined from 49% to 25%.

In this study, students were asked to reply to sixteen questions, including the above-mentioned. The answers to the questions depict that the percentage of students who felt a particular conduct was bad declined in 1995 from 1983. 

In the 1980s, when students most likely broke rules, they were most likely minor infractions such as riding the train, but only paying the elementary-school student fare or riding on the back of a bicycle. In 1995, students appeared less sensitive to the fact that they were doing something wrong.

Students have become numb to bad behavior. As for riding someone's unlocked bicycle without permission, students nowadays see nothing wrong with using a bicycle for just a little while and do not understand the objection to their conduct. They also feel that riding the train for a low fare is alright since it does not hurt anyone.

This change in the sense of normative behavior may be an undercurrent in the bullying problem. I initially thought that students participated in bullying even though they really understand that bullying is bad. However, if their sense of right and wrong has become numb, they may not feel guilty about bullying others. If their standard of judgment has collapsed, there is a greater possibility that they will repeat bad behavior without feeling they are engaging in actual wrongdoing.

I was astonished to find that when bullying was a factor in the death of a student who was not able to bear it, the assailants were unconcerned and did not show a sense of guilt. At the same time, I was disturbed by the students who were indifferent to acts of bullying that were taking place in their midst, but acted as though they did not want to get involved. It becomes easier to understand such a situation when we look at it in terms of their understanding of normative behavior. If this understanding is declining, it is necessary to teach students a standard of right and wrong and it is important to deal with this serious problem.

Against this background, this report attempts to study the relationship between bullying and the sense of normative behavior, with a particular focus on the eroding sense of right and wrong. An analysis of bullying would seem to call for a strict definition of the term, but I have decided to consider it to be whatever children feel it is. In this case, bullying does not signify a situation in which a student jokes around with another or bullying, delinquent behavior, but it is closer to malicious joking. It is in this sense that I would like to study how bullying is related to a sense of normative behavior.

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