LINGUIST List 18.2701|
Mon Sep 17 2007
Diss: Discourse Analysis/Sociolinguistics: Eliasson: 'Verbal Abuse...'
Editor for this issue: Luiza Newlin Lukowicz
To post to LINGUIST, use our convenient web form at
Verbal Abuse. Constructing gender and age in social interaction
Message 1: Verbal Abuse. Constructing gender and age in social interaction
From: Miriam Eliasson <miriam.eliassongmail.com>
Subject: Verbal Abuse. Constructing gender and age in social interaction
E-mail this message to a friend
Institution: Karolinska Institute
Program: Public Health Sciences
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2007
Author: Miriam Eliasson
Dissertation Title: Verbal Abuse. Constructing gender and age in social interaction
Subject Language(s): Swedish (swe)
This thesis aims to describe and analyze gender and age patterns of verbal
abuse among students, and how it is used in identity construction by girls
and boys in social interaction in school.
Two sets of data were used: a school-based survey (study I) and an
observation and interview-based qualitative study (studies II-IV). The
survey encompassed all 6th and 8th graders (n=1 006) in a medium-sized
Swedish city, and served to assess the gender and age-based prevalence of
verbal abuse, and its effects on well-being. The qualitative study was
conducted among 8th grade students at two schools in the Stockholm area
(127 hours of observations and 10 interviews). Through discourse analysis,
it explored the role of verbal abuse in gender and age construction between
same-age students in everyday interactions and examined students' own
understanding of verbal abuse.
The survey showed that verbal abuse is prevalent, more pronounced among 8th
graders, that boys experienced insults and threats to a greater extent, and
girls sexual name-calling (e.g. "whore"). Boys most often used verbal abuse
against other boys as well as girls, indicating that it was especially
significant for masculinity construction. Being exposed did not have to be
frequent, repeated or combined with other kinds of harassment to be
negatively related to school satisfaction and well-being.
The observations and interviews demonstrated that verbal abuse was a
cultural resource to which boys had greater access. Often with sexual
content, it contributed to "toughness", a central component of hegemonic
masculinity in the schools. While generating most of the verbal abuse,
tough, popular boys were not necessarily regarded as verbally abusive.
Responsibility for the bulk of verbal abuse was instead attributed to
"rowdy" boys. Whereas boys largely benefited from using verbal abuse, such
practices mostly reflected unfavorably on girls.
Verbal abuse simultaneously ordered masculinities and femininities,
structured heterosexual relations, and contributed to age construction,
intertwined with that of gender. For boys, using verbal abuse constituted
them as appropriately (hetero)sexual teenage males. Discourses of
immaturity, development, and school year used in the meaning-making of
verbal abuse positioned genders differently, and contrasted teenagers with
adults. Verbally abusive girls were associated with a negative
"fjortis"-femininity, indicating that they displayed the wrong kind of
sexuality, femininity and social age.
What constituted 'verbal abuse' was jointly constructed by students and
sometimes also by teachers in interaction. Speaker intent was a main point
of students' understanding, in turn modified by a number of permissive
discourses, such as "joking", friendship or pejoratives having "lost their
meaning". Students came to interpret use of pejoratives and insults
especially by tough popular boys as "jokes", rather than being offensive
and hurtful. This suggests that students, using and investing in such
discourses, reduced the practice of being verbally abusive to acceptable
everyday interactions because it was part of how hegemonic masculinity is
constructed in school at this age.
It appears that verbal abuse influences power relations between
conversational participants to the advantage of the speaker, and can have
positive social consequences for those who can learn to use it the "right"
way. Power implications of verbal abuse go beyond the particular
interaction and conversational participants. Orders of status and power
repeatedly produced through verbal abuse based on e.g. gender, age, and
sexuality, create part of the social context of school in which students
live their everyday lives and form their identities.
Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue
Please report any bad links or misclassified data
LINGUIST Homepage | Read
LINGUIST | Contact us
While the LINGUIST List makes every effort to ensure the linguistic relevance of sites listed
on its pages, it cannot vouch for their contents.