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Does age make a difference?

An English study looked at four possible reasons why bullying seems to decrease with age. Using information from this study and earlier ones, it was suggested that two reasons in particular helped to explain this drop. The first of these two considered whether the fall in reports of bullying might be due to the fact that younger children have more older children around who might bully them. The study found that this did go some way towards explaining the drop, particularly in the primary school. According to the study, the other main reason why bullying levels decrease with age, is that the social skills of possible victims improve as they get older, and this helps them to discourage or to deal with bullying behaviour. The remaining two reasons were found to have their impact mainly at particular ages. One of the explanations was that younger children do not yet understand that bullying is wrong. However many studies found that it was not until after 15 years that reports of bullying others drops. So this explanation has little impact until the later secondary years. The other explanation was that younger children have a much broader definition of bullying, including a much wider range of aggressive behaviour. It was found that this was particularly true of children in the lower primary years.
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Article details

P K Smith, K C Madsen and J C Moody (1999), 'What Causes the Age Decline in Reports of Being Bullied at School? Towards a Developmental Analysis of Risks of Being Bullied', in 'Educational Research', Volume 41, Number 3, Winter.
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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.
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