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Are some children more likely to be bullied than others?

A number of large studies carried out in Norway and Sweden since the 1970s, have identified certain characteristics of victims which, it is said, make it more likely that they will be bullied. Typically victims suffer from anxiety and low self-esteem. They will also tend to be quiet and sensitive. When aggressively challenged, they will often burst into tears (especially those in the lower grades). They often have few, if any, friends. They usually have a negative view of themselves, feeling they are unattractive and incapable. Boy victims also tend to be physically weaker than their male peers. Interviews with the parents of boy victims revealed that these boys had been sensitive and cautious from an early age. The studies also identified another, less common type of victim. This is one who is both anxious and aggressive, and who may have problems with concentration. Their behaviour may cause tension and hostility in the class. In this article the important point is made that while these characteristics may increase the chances of being bullied and may even be a direct cause, they may also be the result of bullying, which can cause for example, high anxiety levels and low self-esteem.
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Article details

D Olweus (1999) 'Sweden', in P K Smith and others (editors) 'The Nature of School Bullying: a cross-national perspective', London: Routledge. Click the book graphic to buy this book online.
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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.
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