Title

An examination of gender differences in violence-related behaviours of Western Australian secondary school students

Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

Abstract

The Child Health Promotion Research Centre at Edith Cowan University conducted the Violence-Related Behaviours and Young People’s Project to assess the frequency and severity of violence-related behaviours and associated risk factors in Western Australian young people. The sample for the project comprised 16 randomly selected Western Australian Government primary (n=8) and secondary (n=8) schools which were stratified by socioeconomic status and geographic location. Nine urban and rural youth agencies and organisations also participated in the project.

This study was a component of the Violence-Related Behaviours and Young People’s Project and focused on the data collected from the secondary school students. The data were collected via the students completing an anonymous self-report questionnaire. The aim of this study was to determine whether gender is associated with Western Australian secondary school students’ (aged 13-17 years) involvement in violence-related behaviours.

Three objectives were developed to address this aim, and the data were analysed against each objective. Analyses for the first objective found more male than female secondary school students reported being a victim of threatening and physical violence in the last 12 months at school and in the community. This difference was statistically significant for being a victim of threatening and physical violence in the last 12 months at school. Female students were more likely than male students to be a victim of physical violence in the last 12 months at home. Analyses for the second objective found male students were significantly more likely than the female students to be a perpetrator of physical violence in the last 12 months at school and in the community.

To address the third objective, interactions between previously identified risk factors, gender and Western Australian young peoples’ involvement in violence-related behaviours were investigated. The ‘animal cruelty’ risk factor was significantly associated with all violence-related behaviours examined. The only risk factor for which there were differential gender effects was ‘students’ academic results’ and being threatened in the last 12 months in the community. Male secondary school students who report their academic results were ‘about the same’ or they were ‘unsure’ were the least likely to be threatened, whereas for female secondary students it was those who reported their academic results were ‘better than most’.

Limitations associated with this study included threats to internal and external validity. A temporal sequence of causality between the risk factors and violent behaviour was unable to be established due to the cross-sectional research design. This study also did not examine protective factors for violent behaviour, which may have influenced the findings.

The findings from this Masters research will provide information on violence-related behaviours specific to Western Australian young people. Most previously published research has been conducted overseas, and as such, may not be directly applicable to the experiences of young people in Western Australia.

As a result of this study, a number of recommendations are outlined for policy makers and practitioners to develop effective violence-related policies and programmes suitable for young people in Western Australia. These include, but are not restricted to the following: establish ongoing and routine data collection systems with standardised methods for defining and measuring youth violence; encourage intervention studies to determine the impact of promising strategies to reduce violence that protect and support victims of violence; and the differences between genders in: being involved in violence-related behaviours, coping strategies, and the interrelationship between gender and other risk factors need to be identified and understood prior to the implementation of policies and programmes.

LCSH Subject Headings

School violence -- Western Australia.

Violence -- Sex differences.

Sex differences (Psychology) in children -- Western Australia.

Bullying in schools -- Western Australia

Access Note

Access to this thesis - the full text is restricted to current ECU staff and students by author's request. Email request to library@ecu.edu.au

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