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'If they're your friend then it's not bullying': investigating the usefulness of membership categorisation analysis for analysing children's accounts of online bullying

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 19:14 authored by Justin CantyJustin Canty
Children’s accounts of online bullying are pivotal to theorising their experiences of the phenomenon. However child-centred approaches remain marginalised within mainstream bullying literature. This is exemplified by the practice of imposing a standardised, adult-generated definition of bullying both in research and interventions focused on bullying problems. The differing meanings made of aggressive interactions by participants, peer observers and adult observers poses a challenge for labelling such interactions as bullying. EMCA approaches are uncommon in bullying research literature and have the potential to render aspects of interactions available to analysis in a way that is less feasible using other qualitative empirical methods. Membership categorisation analysis (MCA) has illuminated several salient member categories in children’s accounts that are relevant to their construction of identities and online bullying interactions. The trans-disciplinary research out of which this presentation comes brings together literature and methods from social and health sciences, education and EMCA. The rich multimodal data set was coconstructed with participants in combined Year 7/8 classes at three Wellington schools. The research design has generated rich intertextual data akin to naturally occurring data as a result of the integration of fieldwork activities in the classroom with independent teaching and learning objectives. This novel approach thus incorporates child-centred and participatory approaches within a researcher-generated design. In this presentation, I will focus on workings of ‘friend’ as a member category in these accounts. The interweaving of activity, identities and identification articulates the relational and moral tensions for children as they work towards ‘grasping the meaning’ of these events (Sacks, 1989). This offers a different analytic perspective on online bullying as a social phenomenon. This has implications for how we theorise online bullying. In turn, this can inform alternative understandings and responses to aggressive interactions online for children, parents, schools and the wider society.


Publication title

The 9th Australasian Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Conference


School of Social Sciences


Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research

Place of publication

Hamilton, New Zealand

Event title

The 9th Australasian Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Conference

Event Venue

The University of Waikato

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Children's services and childcare

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