The Social Context of Bullying

by student Mimi Yahn

Over the past three semesters, most of my studies and packet work have centered on bullying; in fact, since I began at Goddard in the fall of 201, I’m happy to say that two major pieces of the work are now successfully completed.

The first, which I’d completed in the first semester, was a theoretical and critical approach to the subject; in particular, examining how current research and conceptualizations of bullying do not take popular culture or social enculturation into account. Thanks to the encouragement of my advisor, Bobby Buchanan, I distilled a great deal of my critical analysis into an article and — with a big leap of faith — submitted it to the peer-reviewed education journal, Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice.

I have to admit I was pretty surprised to receive a positive response to my article, “The Social Context of Bullying.” Naturally, there were questions and a number of comments by their reviewer. I was, after all, challenging the mainstream, so it was to be expected that the reviewer would challenge some of my statements. I sent off my responses and held my breath, hoping they wouldn’t be offended by a neophyte undergrad presenting what I hoped were thoughtful and well-reasoned challenges to some of the more well-known and well-respected researchers and practitioners in the field.

And I have to admit I was even more surprised — and quite ecstatic — to get word from the editor several days before Fall 2012 residency that my article was to be published in “a forthcoming issue” of Encounter. That issue turned out to be the Winter issue, which came out in December (Volume 25, Number 4).

In brief, my article presents a more holistic conceptualization of bullying, placing it in the context of popular culture and our social paradigm of hierarchies, privilege, oppression, and dominance/subjugation models of behavior. I also challenge the current view of bullying as a narrowly-defined, static set of specific behaviors and, instead, offer a new set of definitions and criteria, which present bullying as part of a continuum of adaptive, dynamic behaviors.

There is also a discussion of my new theoretical approach (Explicit Dynamics and Implicit Dynamics). This theory addresses bullying in a more holistic understanding that is grounded in the awareness that bullying must be understood in the context of societal and cultural influences. Finally, in the last section of the article, I discuss what it means to create a social paradigm that is not based on aggression and hierarchical, repressive systems.

Right now, the only two ways to access the article are to subscribe to the journal or to email me at

My other major piece of this extended work on bullying was the completion, as of this semester’s Packet 5, of my media survey tracking levels of bullying on primetime network television. This work will also result in an article which I hope to submit to a mass media/communications journal. This article will take a little longer to produce.

To be honest, after analyzing 75 hours of (mostly awful and mind-numbing) television programming, 810 pages of data sheets, notes, descriptions, transcriptions, and data sets, I’m taking a little break to catch my breath, turn off the TV, get some sleep, and eagerly look forward to seeing my Goddard family at the April residency.


Mimi Yahn is in the BA in Individualized Studies program, and will be entering Level 7 in April 2013. The photo of Yahn was taken at Occupy Wall Street by photographer Robin Katrick, who graduates from Goddard in April 2013.

Learn More

We can send you more information about your program of interest or if you're ready, start your application

Get Info Apply Now