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How common is bullying?

When over 150,000 pupils in Norway and Sweden were asked about bullying, their answers revealed that it was a big problem. 15 per cent of the pupils were involved in bullying - about 9 per cent were victims and about 7 per cent bullied others. More frequent bullying (once a week or more often) affected 5 percent of pupils. These numbers may seem alarming, yet studies in other countries point to bullying levels that are as high, if not higher, than bullying levels in Scandinavian schools.
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Comment

Research into bullying has been pioneered in Scandinavia. Studies throughout the world have been inspired and informed by work in Norway and Sweden.
(Andrew Mellor)
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Article details

D Olweus, S Limber and S F Mihalic, 'History and Description of the Bullying Prevention Program', in 'Blueprints for Violence Prevention', The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA. This paper can be downloaded here.

The information in this paper was taken from D Olweus, S Limber and S F Mihalic (1999), 'Blueprints for Violence Prevention. Book Nine: Bullying Prevention Program', Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
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Graph details

'Percentage of Norwegian and Swedish Students Being Bullied', from the article online by Olweus, Limber and Mihalic quoted above, page 2, figure 2.

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Author details

Professor Dan Olweus was the first person to carry out a thorough research project on Professor Dan Olweusbullying. This large, long term study which began in Sweden in 1970, was to provide the inspiration for many who felt that bullying in schools should be challenged rather than accepted. Since the 1970s, his work in this area had continued with force. Indeed, in 1997-99, he led a group in a large project which introduced the widely respected Olweus (anti-bullying) programme to schools in Norway. Professor Olweus is based at the Research Centre for Health Promotion, University of Bergen in Norway and can be contacted by email.

In a 1989, Scottish study, 942 children in Scotland were asked about bullying in school. Half said they had been bullied at least once or twice during their time at school and slightly fewer admitted to bullying someone else. A quarter had been bullied 'sometimes or more often'. Just less than a third had never been involved either as bully or victim. However, when the pupils were asked about their experiences over the last couple of months, 6% had been bullied 'sometimes or more often' and 4% had bullied someone else more than once or twice.
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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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Graph details

'Pupils involved in bullying during their school career', from the Mellor article available online above, table 1, page 2. Please note, in the graph each category is exclusive.

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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.

One of the largest studies of bullying involved over 28,000 children in Australia between 1993 and 1998. About half of the children (between 8 and 18 years) said they had not been bullied that year. However some children were being bullied regularly: one in five boys said they were bullied weekly and one in six girls said the same.
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Article details

K Rigby (2002) 'New Perspectives on Bullying', London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Limited. Information about this book including contents, reviews and ordering details are available here.
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Graph details

'Incidence of victimisation in Australian schools (percentages reported during the school year)', from the Rigby article above, table 3.1.

Boys Girls
Every day 2.9 1.2
Most days 5.7 3.8
Once or twice a week 14.3 11.0
Less than once a week 27.3 26.2
Never 49.8 57.9

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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.

Over 2,000 pupils took part in a 1997 study about bullying in English schools. When asked how often they had been bullied since Christmas (6 months before) most of the pupils (87.8%) said that they had not been bullied or that it had happened only once or twice. However 12.2% said they had been bullied 2 or 3 times a month, about once a week or several times a week. When they were asked about bullying others, most of the pupils (97.1%) said they had not bullied another student since Christmas, or only once or twice. However, some pupils (2.9%) did admit to bullying others two or three times a month or more often.
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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 (2).
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Graph details

'Frequency of being bullied and bullying others for overall sample and for boys and girls (in percentages)' from the Smith and Shu article above, table 1, page 198.

Being bullied Not bullied Once/twice 2,3/month 1/week several/
week
Overall 55.5 32.3 4.3 3.8 4.1
Boys 56.8 30.5 4.9 4.0 3.8
Girls 53.9 34.3 3.7 3.6 4.5
Bullying others Did not bully Once/twice 2,3/month 1/ week several/
week
Overall 73.4 23.7 1.3 1.0 0.6
Boys 71.9 24.1 1.7 1.5 0.8
Girls 75.1 23.1 0.9 0.5 0.4

'Frequency of being bullied, and bullying others, two or three times a month or more for overall sample by year group (in percentages)' from the Smith and Shu article above, table 2, page 198.

2/3 month
or more often
Year 6 (10 years) Year 7 (11 years) Year 8 (12 years) Year 9 (13 years) Year 10 (14 years)
Been bullied 18.7 13.1 12.1 10.5 7.5
Bully others 5.3 1.4 2.8 3.6 3.3

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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 1990, over 6,000 children from junior/middle and secondary schools in Sheffield were asked about their experiences of bullying. Over a quarter of the children (27%) from the junior/middle schools said they had been bullied 'sometimes' or more often and 10% said they were being bullied at least once a week. The numbers dropped when secondary pupils were asked, with 10% saying they had been bullied 'sometimes' or more often and 4% saying that they were bullied at least once a week. When asked about bullying others, 12% of the junior/middle pupils admitted to bullying 'sometimes' or more often and 4% to bullying once a week or more. 1% of the secondary school pupils in the study admitted to bullying once a week or more.
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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 the Whitney and Smith article above, table 1, page 8.

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.

The answers of over 4,000 children from 25 secondary schools in Keele, England revealed that in a week 70 pupils in a school with 1,000 were bullied in some way or another. When all the children in the study were asked about verbal bullying (name calling or unpleasant teasing) their answers were also alarming - 24 percent were bullied in this way 'often or very often', and another 28 percent of pupils suffered teasing and name calling 'sometimes'.
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Article details

D Glover, G Gough, M Johnstone and N Cartwright (2000), 'Bullying in 25 Secondary Schools: incidence, impact and intervention', in 'Educational Research', Volume 42 Number 2, Summer.

A New Zealand study of bullying in the 1990s asked 259 boys and girls (11 - 13 years old) about bullying. At least half and possibly even three quarters of the children said they had been bullied. Ten per cent of them had been bullied weekly. These very high levels covered both physical and emotional bullying.
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Article details

A brief description of the study can be found on the 'No Bully' web page (see the Bullying Information section for Teachers and Parents).

In a study of bullying in 120 schools in Northern Ireland (in the year 2000), 40% of primary pupils said that they had been bullied recently. Twenty five per cent admitted to bullying another pupil. When secondary pupils were asked, 30% said that they had been bullied recently and 28% said that they bullied another pupil.
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Article details

'Bullying in Schools: a Northern Ireland study', Research Briefing (RB) 8/2002. Department of Education, Northern Ireland. Published October 2002. This document can be downloaded here (.pdf document). A copy of the full report 'Bullying in Schools: a Northern Ireland study' is available from the Department of Education, Northern Ireland, Rathgael House, Balloo Road, Bangor, Co Down BT19 7PR, Northern Ireland. Price £5.
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