eXbus is an interdisciplinary research project focused on bullying in schools. Our research concerns how instances of bullying originate and develop, how they are maintained and how they, possibly, are dismantled. It is a widespread belief that bullying is an effect of differences in personalities among the children involved; however, our research points to more complex dynamics and mechanisms of enactment. The eXbus project builds on existing research, but casts a wider net so as to incorporate a greater number of different perspectives. The eXbus research demonstrates the complexity of bullying as a phenomenon, and thereby also the necessity of applying and developing analytical approaches and concepts capable of embracing such complexities. The research focuses on the complex inter-relational dynamics of school bullying, and investigates different positions within group interactions, highlighting the sometimes shifting positions within bullying – in contrast to the dominant view that children have “careers” as either bullies or victims. In focusing on a wide net of relations that are relevant for school bullying, the project challenges both the classic dyad of perpetrator-victim and the triad of perpetrator-victim-bystander. Instead, group relations within a classroom, as well as adult positions, including that of teacher, school principal, and parents, all need to be brought inside the framework of bullying dynamics.
The local school culture, norms, social patterns and history of the particular school class affected by bullying are thus of particular interest to the research, together with the positioning of teachers, headmasters and parents. The material setting, social media, computer games and various forms of media products which the children draw upon and play with are also included in the analyses.
Some core findings and analysis so far points at the following: The basic necessity of being part of the community of the school class is essential. And if partaking is threatened social exclusion anxiety can arise. A production of contempt and selective distributions of contempt and dignity are ways of dealing with such anxiety of social exclusion. These processes can accumulate and undermine the relational practices among the children at schools in ways that produce and further bullying. In terms of cyberbullying, eXbus has a particular focus on how, positions seem to be dispersed and distributed rather than clearly fixed in positions of bully, victim and bystander. Cases of cyberbullying seem to be characterized by non-simultaneity in emotional intensity, i.e. the children engaged are preoccupied in an on-going communication in multiple temporalities and not necessarily at the same time. Such non-simultaneity is played out when the technology gains agency and intervenes in cases of bullying.
Another core finding points to the mutual disempowerment which is often generated in home-school cooperation when parents endeavour to help their (bullied) children in a situation where the school holds the power of definition. eXbus has as a basic outset for the research analysed a range of prevailing definitions of bullying and questioned the widespread definitions focusing on personality traits and levels of aggression as the main cause of bullying practices. Another kind of definition with focus on social processes and concepts such as processes of inclusion-exclusion, fear, anxiety, and otherness are highlighted as an alternative key to an understanding of intra-group relations.
eXbus research has also focused on the ways in which experiences of bullying during childhood make their mark on adult life. And a regional survey on bullying among 1052 school children has been conducted. The survey results points at how the culture of the school class has a significant impact on the prevalence of bullying.