Bullying And Its Effects
Being bullied is an experience common to many children. There are no uniform ways that people categorise bullying or collect statistics, hence the difference in figures. From a small sample, the DfES reported that 4.3% of pupils said they were bullied two or three times per month. However, in 2003 the Thomas Coram Research Institute for Childline, using focus groups and questionnaires, reported that 51% of primary schools pupils and 54% of secondary school pupils said that bullying was a "big" or "quite a big" problem in their school. Read the report on Tackling Bullying.
A 2003 survey of 7000 teenagers' views found that 13% experienced severe bullying, and 42 to 47% experienced less severe bullying. Over the six year period before the Coram Report was published bullying was the main problem that children contacted Childline about, and in April 2004 to March 2005 this represented 23% of calls. Three quarters of the callers had been bullied by a group rather than by individuals.
For some children, bullying is not restricted to a brief period of time. In an international study, Smith (1999) reported that of the 10-20% of pupils in that study who said they were bullied, for 65% it lasted up to a month, for 13% for a term, for 9% for a year, and sadly, for 13% for several years.
Being the target of the bully themselves in the past term was a problem reported by almost twice as many primary school pupils (51% in Year 5) as secondary pupils (28% in Year 8). Girls reported being bullied almost as often as boys. Young people with same sex preferences are also targeted for bullying, with 30-50% of such pupils reporting being bullied and teachers reporting being aware of verbal (82%) and physical (26%) homophobic incidents, (Warwick, 2004).
The incidence of bullying and the perceived success in tackling it varied from school to school (e.g. in one school 86% of children reported that teachers always set a good example but only 48% thought so in another school) and the positive role model set by teachers varied from teacher to teacher. Children with special educational needs are more likely to be involved in bullying as victims (2 to 3 times the risk) or bullies, (Whitney 1994).
Effects of bullying
Both bullies and victims feel more negative about school, and persistent bullying may lead to stress and depression. In the year to March 2006 Childline reported that bullying featured in many calls from children talking about suicide. Bullying can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, hopelessness and isolation. Many callers to Childline say they are self harming. There are effects on school work too. Children miss lessons or are too scared to attend school. They lose concentration when they do attend.
Some of the effects last long after the bullying, until they are adults. HMI in one study found adults who said that they still recalled bullying incidents from thirty years ago and considered that the effects remain with them.
Being a person who is present when another is bullied has an effect on the bystander too. They feel compromised, helpless and guilty (ChildLine).
Children can be both bullies and victims, and those adopting both roles are often ones with the most significant behavioural problems (Wolke, 2000).
Childline discovered that 15% of primary children surveyed and 12% of secondary pupils had both bullied and been bullied in the past year.
Sex differences in being bullied and reporting it
Smith (2000) reported that boys are rarely bullied by girls, but girls experience bullying by both sexes. Girls tend to experience more relational bullying. In many studies girls report using deliberate social exclusion as a frequent form of bullying, although in the Coram study both sexes used this form. In that study children in Year 5 were more likely to experience this form of bullying than those in Year 8.
There are sex differences in the frequency of reporting of different types of bullying with 55% of the calls to Childline about sexual orientation, homophobia or homophobic bullying being from boys when usually they make up just 25% of their total calls.
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