Bullying in Australian schools: the perceptions of victims and other students

Abstract

Students’ perceptions of the nature and prevalence of bullying and how the problem was being addressed were investigated in a convenience sample of 1688 students in years 5–10 attending Australian government schools. Comparisons were made between students who reported that they had been bullied during the previous 12 months and others. Rankings of the frequencies of the kinds of bullying perceived as occurring at the school were highly similar for the two groups. However, bullied students estimated significantly higher frequency of bullying. Further, bullied students were more inclined to view the social environment as less safe, bystanders to be less helpful, informing students after being bullied less frequent, classroom activities to address bullying less common and less helpful, and teachers less committed to help. In general, students perceived more students being bullied at their school than was indicated in reports of their experiences. The implications of these findings for addressing bullying in schools are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Brosch, T., Scherer, K. R., Grandjean, D., & Sander, D. (2013). The impact of emotion on perception, attention, memory, and decision-making. The Swiss Medical Weekly, 143, 1–10.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., et al. (2009). Australian covert bullying prevalence study (ACBPS). Perth: Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82, 405–432.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Egan, S. K., & Perry, D. G. (1998). Does low self-regard invite victimization? Developmental Psychology, 34(2), 299–309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Humphrey, N. (2013). Social and emotional learning: A critical appraisal. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Hunter, S. C., James, M. E., Boyle, M. E., & Warden, D. (2010). Perceptions and correlates of peer-victimization and bullying. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77(4), 797–810.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Keltner, D., Ellsworth, P. C., & Edwards, K. (1993). Beyond simple pessimism: Effects of sadness and anger on social perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(5), 740–752.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Malecki, C. K., Demaray, M. K., Coyle, S., Geosling, R., Rueger, S. Y., & Becker, L. D. (2015). Frequency, power differential, and intentionality and the relationship to anxiety, depression, and self-esteem for victims of bullying. Child and Youth Care Forum, 44, 115–131.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Modecki, K. L., Minchin, J., Allen, G., Harbaugh, N., Guerra, G., & Runions, K. C. (2014). Bullying prevalence across contexts: A meta-analysis measuring cyber and traditional bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55(5), 602–611.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Ortega, R., Elipe, P., Mora-Merchán, J. A., Genta, M. L., Brighi, A., Guarini, A., et al. (2012). The emotional impact of bullying and cyberbullying on victims: A European cross-national study. Aggressive Behavior, 38(5), 342–356.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Pepler, D. J., & Craig, W. M. (1995). A peek behind the fence: Naturalistic observations of aggressive children with remote audiovisual recording. Developmental Psychology, 31(4), 548–553.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Rigby, K. (2003). Consequences of bullying in schools. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 48, 583–590.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Rigby, K. (2014). How teachers address cases of bullying in schools: A comparison of five reactive approaches. Educational Psychology in Practice: Theory, Research and Educational Psychology, 30(4), 409–419.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Rigby, K., & Bagshaw, D. (2003). Prospects of adolescent students collaborating with teachers in addressing issues of bullying and conflict in schools. Educational Psychology, 23, 535–546.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Rigby, K., & Barnes, A. (2002). To tell or not to tell: The victimised student’s dilemma. Youth Studies, Australia, 21, 33–36.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Rigby, K., & Johnson, K. (2015). The prevalence and effectiveness of anti-bullying strategies employed in Australian schools. Canberra: Department of Education and Training.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Smith, P. K. (2014). Understanding school bullying: Its nature and prevention strategies. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Thompson, F., & Smith, P. K. (2011). The use and effectiveness of anti-bullying strategies in schools. Research Report DFE-RR098. London: HMSO.

  20. Ttofi, M. M., & Farrington, D. P. (2011). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: A systematic and meta-analytic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 7, 27–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Wang, J., Iannotti, R. J., & Nansel, T. N. (2009). School bullying among adolescents in the United States: Physical, verbal, relational, and cyber. Journal of Adolescent Heath, 45, 368–375.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This article is based upon research funded by the Australian Department of Education and Training and undertaken through the School of Education at the University of South Australia.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ken Rigby.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Items employed to assess the prevalence of nine kinds of bullying

  1. 1.

    Ignored, left out on purpose or not allowed to join in.

  2. 2.

    Hit, kicked or pushed around.

  3. 3.

    Lies or nasty stories told to make other kids not like them.

  4. 4.

    Made afraid of getting hurt.

  5. 5.

    Made fun of and teased in a mean and hurtful way.

  6. 6.

    Sent harassing texts or emails.

  7. 7.

    Cruel things said online or on social networks such as Facebook.

  8. 8.

    Sexual harassment by another student.

  9. 9.

    Harassing students because of their race.

The response categories were: never, sometimes, quite often and very often.

Appendix 2: Items employed to assess teachers’ actions to counter bullying

Here is a list of things that teachers may do in class at your school. Please indicate what is true at your school. Response categories: never, sometimes, often.

Then say how helpful it is in stopping bullying at your school. Response categories: Not at all, A bit helpful, helpful, very helpful.

  1. 1.

    Teachers encourage us to respect one another.

  2. 2.

    Teachers expect us to include other kids who are different from ourselves.

  3. 3.

    Teachers discuss with us how we can help students who are having a hard time.

  4. 4.

    Teachers explain how we should behave towards others when we are using cyber technology, such as when texting or sending online messages to other students.

  5. 5.

    Teachers ask us to work with other students to solve problems.

  6. 6.

    Teachers teach us how to keep safe online.

  7. 7.

    Teachers talk with us about what we can do if we see someone being bullied.

  8. 8.

    Teachers help us to understand how people might feel when bad things happen to them.

  9. 9.

    Teachers make time for us to talk to each other in a group about things that interest us and any problems we have at school.

  10. 10.

    Teachers suggest ways in which arguments can be settled peacefully.

  11. 11.

    Teachers advise us on what to do if we are bullied by someone.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rigby, K. Bullying in Australian schools: the perceptions of victims and other students. Soc Psychol Educ 20, 589–600 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-017-9372-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Australian schools
  • Social perception
  • Victims