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What are the different types of bullying?

In a 1997 study in England, 2,308 children were asked about bullying in school. When those who had been bullied were asked what form it had taken, almost 75% said they had been called nasty names, making it by far the most common type of bullying. The second most common type (38%) was spreading rumours or lies. A lot of children (31%) felt that they had been kept out of things or ignored. Almost a quarter (21%) said they had been kicked, pushed around or physically bullied in some other way. 14% had suffered racial name calling, while 8% answered that their money or belongings had been taken or damaged. When bullies were asked about the different types, by far the most common was nasty name calling (71%). The second most common type was keeping someone out of things, with 29% admitting to doing this. 17% had spread lies or rumours about someone, while 16% had hit, pushed around or in some other way, physically bullied another pupil. 13% admitted to racial name calling and 3% to taking or damaging someone's money or possessions.
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Article details

P K Smith and Shu Shu (2000), 'What Good Schools Can Do About Bullying: findings from a survey in English schools after a decade of research and action', in 'Childhood' Volume 7 Number 2.
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Graph details

Types of bullying, as reported by those bullied and those taking part in bullying - from Smith and Shu article above, table 3, page 200.

Victims Bullies
Boys Girls Boys Girls
Called mean and hurtful names, made fun of in other ways 75.1 74.5 74.7 65.0
Others told lies, spread rumours, made others dislike me 35.4 40.5 16.2 18.3
Others kept me out of things, excluded or ignored me 27.4 35.5 21.2 41.7
Hit, kicked, pushed, shoved around, threatened 27.4 14.0 20.2 8.3
Money or other things taken away from me or damaged 8.0 7.9 5.1 0.0
Called mean or hurtful names about my colour or race 16.1 11.5 17.2 6.7

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Author details

Peter SmithProfessor Peter K Smith is Head of the Unit for School and Family Studies, Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, London. He has been involved in bullying research for a number of years and has published widely on this topic.

Peter Smith may be contacted by email, and the website of the Unit for School and Family Studies at Goldsmiths College may be found here.

According to the children who took part in a study of bullying in Sheffield in 1990 (involving over 6,000 children) the most common type of bullying is unpleasant and hurtful name calling. At junior/middle school level, half of the children who had been bullied had suffered nasty name-calling. This was even commoner among secondary pupils, with 62% of bullied children reporting this type of bullying. Between a quarter to a third of pupils from junior/middle and secondary schools had experienced being physically hurt, threatened or having rumours spread about them. It was more likely for boys than girls to be physically hurt. Girls, on the other hand, were more likely than boys to shut people out, ignore them or spread rumours about them.
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Article details

I Whitney and P Smith (1993) 'A Survey of the Nature and Extent of Bullying in Junior/Middle and Secondary Schools', in 'Educational Research', Volume 35, Number 1, Spring.
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Graph details

Percentage of boys and girls (averaged by class and school) who reported being bullied and bullying others during this school term from Whitney and Smith article above, table 4, page 11.

Junior/Middle Schools Secondary Schools
Sometimes or more Once a week or more Sometimes or more Once a week or more
Been bullied:        
Boys (N = 1271) 28 10 12 5
Girls (N = 1352) 27 10 9 4
Overall (N = 2623) 27 10 10 4
Bullied others:        
Boys (N = 2152) 16 6 8 2
Girls (N = 1983) 7 1 4 1
Overall (N = 4135) 12 4 6 1

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Author details

Peter SmithProfessor Peter K Smith is Head of the Unit for School and Family Studies, Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, London. He has been involved in bullying research for a number of years and has published widely on this topic.

Peter Smith may be contacted by email, and the website of the Unit for School and Family Studies at Goldsmiths College may be found here.

In the 1990s, over 26,000 children in Australia were asked about their experiences of bullying. When asked about types of bullying, the ones mentioned most often were cruel teasing and name-calling. Both girls and boys said that these were the most common types. Unlike physical bullying, which happened less often in secondary than primary school, teasing and name-calling remained the most common types in both primary and secondary school. Boys were more likely than girls to be hit/kicked or threatened while girls were more likely than boys to be left out of things.
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Article details

K Rigby 'What Children Tell Us About Bullying in Schools', available online here, or in the publication 'Children Australia', (1997) 22, 2, pp28-34.
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Author details

Ken RigbyKen Rigby is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Social Psychology and an educational consultant at the University of South Australia. He has been involved in major studies of bullying in Australia and has published widely on this topic. For more information about Dr Rigby and his work see the bullying pages here. Ken may be contacted by e-mail.

In 1989, a Scottish study found that 15% of the 942 pupils asked had recently been picked on or called names. Fewer (8%) had been hit or kicked. Slightly fewer said they had been left out of things recently.
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Article details

A Mellor (1997) 'Bullying in Scottish Secondary Schools', SCRE Spotlight Number 23. Available to download from SCRE's website.
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Author details

Andrew MellorAt the time of the study, Andrew Mellor was a practising teacher who had received funding from the Scottish Education Department to carry out this project. He has been actively involved in anti-bullying work in Scotland for almost 15 years, speaking at conferences, writing for academic and non-academic audiences and running in-service courses for teachers. He is now manager of the Anti-Bullying Network, which is funded by the Scottish Executive and based at The University of Edinburgh.

Some children will be subjected to bullying because they belong to, or are believed to belong to, a particular group. For example, with homophobic bullying, a child or young person is taunted, or physically abused because of his/her (perceived) sexual orientation. Another example is racist bullying, where it is the child's membership of a particular ethnic group which is the focus of aggression and ridicule.

Another type of bullying to emerge recently is the sending of abusive text or voice messages via the mobile phone. Another unpleasant development is bullying using the internet. In this case bullies could post unpleasant stories and hate messages on a website or send unpleasant emails. As these types of bullying, unfortunately, become more common, anti-bullying websites are providing practical advice on how to stop them.

Read an Anti-Bullying Network bully box posting from a pupil being bullied on the internet, and the ABN response.

Girls and boys can also be subjected to sexual bullying. This can involve unpleasant name calling, unwanted and inappropriate touching, looks and comments about appearance, pornographic material, sexual innuendoes and suggestions. It could even be a sexual assault or rape.

Article details

Department for Education and Employment (Revised 2002) 'Bullying - Don't Suffer in Silence. An Anti-Bullying Pack for Schools.' Department for Education and Employment. This pack can be found on the DFES website in the bullying section.
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