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"Sticks and stones" : social dominance, bullying and early adolescent boys.

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The study is concerned with the ways early adolescent males understand and experience bullying within a hetero-normative school context. The research focuses on the ways in which bullying occurs, and how it relates to identity development amongst young boys. Key theoretical constructs include multiple masculinities, social dominance theory, and social constructionism. The researcher adopted an ethnographic approach. Constructs were explored through the use of four focus groups and one individual interview with 20 Grade 8 learners at a co-educational high school. Three dominant themes emerged from the discussions. The Embodied Self explores the expression and development of gender identity through the construction of the physical and performative male body. Displaced Masculinities explores the gradual shift in power that young men have experienced in terms of current representations of gender, race and technology. The third theme, Recovering Power, identifies subtle subversion strategies that young males reproduce to recover social power. Bullying is normalised within the school context and is understood as a physical and psychological process that differentiates desirable and undesirable masculinities. Masculinities are actively policed by peers, forcing boys to position themselves against the ideal hegemonic masculinity underpinning feelings of uncertainty and instability. Recommendations include continued opportunities for discussion of gender issues at a formative school level, focused policy development addressing the abuse of communication technologies, and translation of gender research into policy and legislation to recognise the role and responsibilities of men, with the major aim of reducing inequality.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2009.


Bullying in schools., Teenage boys--Psychology., Theses--Psychology.