Is There a Path to Well-Being for School Bullies?

Friday, July 18, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge A
Oral Presentation
Helen OH , Sociology, Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea
School bullies and their parents are stigmatized as perpetrators, separated and excluded from the school community. They are wounded by this situation and need socio-psychological stability. Therefore, they try to restore their well-being and life satisfaction through healing programs outside the context of school. Such programs help them reconstruct a new identity, and they experience the process of transitioning into their new identity, which implies a state of liminality (i.e. the psychological threshold when transitioning from one stage to another).

  This study focuses on art healing programs targeting middle school bullies and their parents. By employing ethnography and in-depth interviews with participants in these programs, we find that these adolescents and their parents feel freed from depression and a sense of guilt. In fact, healing programs provide a hospitable atmosphere, and healers approach participants holistically. The problem is that although bullies experience the recovery of their identities through these programs, which act as passing-rituals, their success is not guaranteed within the school system. In healing programs, bullies win trust and show the potential to become good people; outside of the programs, however, they are still treated as potential criminals. Consequently, this study demonstrates the limit of healing programs in that wounded students and their parents have no choice but to drop out of the school system and find alternative education centers for the sake of their well-being and social integration.