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Portrayals of Bullying: A Content Analysis of Picture Books for Preschoolers

Abstract

Bullying affects a significant number of school children in the United States. Great concern for teaching children about bullying is apparent in the number of picture books published with bullying themes. The following study is a content analysis of how bullies and victims are portrayed in picture books suitable for preschoolers. Many of the stories offered a way for children to vicariously experience and even rehearse what they would do in situations where there is no adult to intervene. Findings showed that bullies were twice as likely to be male; however, sex of victims in picture books was evenly split between males and females. While teasing and name calling was the most prevalent type of bullying portrayed, female perpetrators were just as likely to physically bully their victims as male perpetrators. Findings also reveal a strong emphasis on victims’ feelings and reactions. Absent was meaningful representation of why bullies bullied, instead placing the responsibility of stopping the bullies on the victims. While nearly every story had a happy ending, bullying was treated overall as an inevitable reality for children.

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Oppliger, P.A., Davis, A. Portrayals of Bullying: A Content Analysis of Picture Books for Preschoolers. Early Childhood Educ J 44, 515–526 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-015-0734-1

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Keywords

  • Bully
  • Bullies
  • Bullying
  • Children’s literature