Participant role theory describes the designation of social roles and the use of contextually appropriate social scripts and provides a context for the interpretation of a range of social and interpersonal issues, including bullying in the school setting. This study uses participant role theory to analyze interpersonal engagements in a 10th grade class in a high school in central Israel. Data were drawn from ethnographic observations conducted by the first author of the cohort over the course of a school year, together with in-depth semi-structured interviews with the students and teachers. The findings suggest that students apply “role switching” (the flexible presentation of multiple social roles, depending on context) to negotiate the challenge of bullying in the school setting. The study also assesses the influence of individual teachers on role switching, positing that a teacher's relationship with individual students can serve as a catalyst for role-switching in three specific circumstances: where the teacher–student relationship instigates bullying against a specific child; where the teacher is a bully; and where a supportive relationship enables positive role-switching on the part of specific classroom actors. These findings have theoretical and applied significance in both pre- and in-service training for teachers and school administrative staff.
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- School bullying
- participant role theory
- peer victimization