Assessing the impact of emerging anti-bullying legislation on children and youth

Alicia Raia-Hawrylak, Christopher Donoghue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose - Anti-bullying legislation has been adopted in every state to prevent the victimization of youth, but the focus on deterring and criminalizing individual behavior can obscure the contextual factors that contribute to aggression. This theoretical paper engages sociological literature to understand the impact of recent anti-bullying legislation on students' experiences. Design/methodology/approach - We discuss stigma and accountmaking theory to theorize the ways students become particularly vulnerable to victimization and may or may not be sufficiently protected under the law. We also engage criminological theories to understand how punishment may not be sufficient for preventing aggressive behavior but may instead lead students to employ strategies to avoid being caught or punished for their behaviors. Findings - We argue that the majority of current anti-bullying definitions and protocols in use are ambiguous and insufficient in protecting vulnerable groups of students, particularly students with disabilities, overweight students, and LGBT+ students. Originality/value - Our findings suggest that schools should seek to understand and alter the school-wide cultures and norms that permit aggressive behavior in the first place, in turn creating more inclusive school environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-184
Number of pages18
JournalSociological Studies of Children and Youth
StatePublished - 2016


  • Aggressive behavior
  • Bullying
  • Children
  • Civil rights law
  • School climate
  • Victimization


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