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Who do children tell when they are being bullied?

A 1989 Scottish study of bullying found that half the victims had told no one about being bullied. Of the children who had confided in someone, 47% had told a parent and 31% a teacher.
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Article details

A Mellor (1997) 'Bullying in Scottish Secondary Schools', SCRE Spotlight, Number 23. Available to download online here.
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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.

Over 16,000 children in Strathclyde, Scotland answered questions about bullying. It was found that Primary 5 pupils were more likely to tell their parents than their teachers about bullying. In P6/7, the children were still more likely to tell their parents than their teachers, but it had become less common to tell either parents or school staff. Both girls and boys became less likely to confide in their parents or school as they moved up into secondary school, but the reluctance was particularly evident in boys. It was suggested that this drop might have something to do with the increased importance of the peer group at this time.
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Article details

A McLean (about 1994) 'Bullyproofing Our School - what do the pupils think?', unpublished report. Reference copy held by the Anti-Bullying Network. This article can be viewed here.
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Alan McLeanAuthor details

At the time of this study, Alan McLean was Principal Psychologist based at the Education Department Psychological Service in the former Strathclyde Regional Council. His particular interests in the area of bullying include: links between bullying and motivation; the thinking processes and self-esteem of the bully.

He can be contacted at by email.

In a Scottish study, over 800 children from primary and secondary schools in North Lanarkshire and Aberdeenshire answered questions about bullying. It was found that most of the pupils (78%) who said they had been subjected to peer aggression (usually one-off aggressive behaviour) or bullying (repeated aggression) had told someone about it. It was found to be much more likely for girls to tell someone than boys. It was also more likely for primary school children to tell than secondary school children. When they asked for help children would most frequently turn to a family member, this was closely followed by turning to a friend. Of the three groups suggested, they indicated that they were least likely to tell a teacher.
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Article details

S Hunter, J M E Boyle and D Warden ( 2002) 'Help Seeking Amongst Child and Adolescent Victims of Peer-Aggression and Bullying: the influence of school-stage, gender, victimisation, appraisal and emotion'. Overheads from presentation at the BPS Developmental Section Conference at the University of Sussex, 5-8 September 2002. To obtain a copy of the overheads please contact Simon Hunter at the Department of Psychology at the University of Strathclyde. The Anti-Bullying Network at Edinburgh University has a reference copy.
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Simon HunterAuthor details

Simon Hunter is a PhD student and research assistant based in the Psychology Department at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. He has published a number of papers on different aspects of bullying including coping strategies and help seeking. Simon may be contacted by email.

Over a number of years in the 1990s, more than 26,000 Australian children provided information about bullying. Their answers revealed that both boys and girls are most likely to tell friends about bullying, then their mother, then their father and lastly their teachers. If bullying becomes more frequent, the likelihood of telling someone also increases. Sadly, approximately 40% of boys and 25% of girls who are bullied every week do not tell their friends, even more feel unable to confide in their parents. The studies also found that as children grow older they become less likely to tell. The exception was that girls were more likely to tell their friends as they grew older.
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Article details

K Rigby 'What Children Tell Us About Bullying in Schools', in, 'Children Australia' (1997) 22, 2, 28-34. Available to read online here.
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Graph details

See Table 3, 'Percentages of children who have been bullied and have told about it, according to person told, and gender and age group of informant', within the above article. Follow the online link.
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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 the 1990s, children from 25 secondary schools in England were asked about bullying. Their answers revealed that if they were being bullied it was most common for them to turn to a best friend for help. It was also found that children were more likely to turn to their mother rather than father in the home and if approaching a member of staff in the school, it was most likely to be their form tutor.
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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.

In 1997, over 2,000 children in England answered questions about bullying. In response to a question which asked bullied children if they had told anyone about it, many (30%) said they had not. It was also found that it was more likely for boys and for older children to keep silent. Of the children who did tell someone, 45% said they told a member of the family. This was closely followed by telling friends and then school staff (35%).
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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, Issue 2.
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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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