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What does it feel like to be bullied?

In frank and powerful real accounts, two Scottish teenagers describe being bullied at school. They describe what happened to them and how they felt at the time. They report feeling very scared and upset, too frightened to tell anyone. They also ask the anguished question 'why me?'. However the accounts also tell how they managed to turn the situation around and rebuild their confidence.
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Article details

R Proudlock (editor) 'Listen to Me. Getting Together to Share and Deal With Our Problems'. The 'Listen to Me' Project, Highland Council. To order copies of this booklet contact Rosanna Proudlock.

Information about bullying was gathered from over 26,000 primary and secondary school children in Australia in the 1990s. What did they tell us about how it feels to be bullied? Of the children who were bullied at least once a week, two children out of three said they were bothered by it. It was found that girls were more likely than boys to admit to being affected by it. When boys did admit to it, the emotion mentioned most often was anger. For girls it was more likely to be sadness. However, as they get older, girls tend to get angrier about being bullied frequently. Many children answered that as a result of being bullied they felt worse about themselves. About 60% of girls and 50% of boys reported a loss of self-esteem.
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Article details

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

Table 2, 'Percentages of schoolchildren reporting kinds of (i) emotional reactions and (ii) self perceptions after being bullied by their peers, according to gender and age-group' from the article above. 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.

A study of children from 50 primary and secondary schools in Malta aimed to find out more about the feelings of bullies and victims after a bullying incident. It was found that it was most common for the victim to feel 'vengeful' (about 38% said they felt this way). This was closely followed by feeling angry. It was only slightly less likely that the victim would have feelings of self-pity. Other feelings mentioned by those being bullied were indifference and helplessness. Differences appeared between the reactions of primary and secondary school children. It was found that at secondary school level, victims were more likely to feel angry and vengeful, while victims at primary school were more likely to have feelings of self pity and helplessness.
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Article details

M G Borg (1998) 'The Emotional Reactions of School Bullies and their Victims' in 'Educational Psychology', Volume 18, Number 4, pages 433- 444.

In an Australian study, teenage girls and teachers were invited to talk and write about verbal and psychological bullying (for example deliberately keeping someone out of a group). One of the things they covered was the effect it had on victims. Effects mentioned included: confusion (asking 'why me?'), denial (pretending it's not happening), then pain (for example fear, anxiety, hurt, low self esteem, depression and a drop in self confidence).
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Article details

L Owens, R Shute, P Slee (2000) ' "Guess What I Just Heard!": Indirect Aggression Among Teenage Girls in Australia' in 'Aggressive Behavior', Volume 26, pages 67-83. This journal is very hard to get hold of in Scotland, but the article can be ordered from a local library (on inter-library loan) for a small fee.

Over 700 secondary school children in England were asked about bullying. Those who had been bullied said they found it stressful. Boys and girls both found the most stressful type of bullying was having rumours spread about them. They also found it very stressful to be physically bullied, called names, deliberately kept out of things or being threatened. Almost half of the victims said that they felt irritable, while just over a third said they felt panicky and nervous.
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Article details

S Sharp (1995) 'How Much Does Bullying Hurt? The Effects of Bullying on the Personal Wellbeing and Educational Progress of Secondary Aged Students' in 'Educational and Child Psychology', Volume 12, Number 2, pages 81 - 88.

As part of a large international study of bullying in schools, 29 children and 7 adults were interviewed in Spain. The questions were trying to get at how children and adults think and feel about bullying. These were either people who had experienced bullying directly or ones who had not, but who were aware of the issue. The strongest emotion of the victim, according to those interviewed, would be feeling upset (42%), then feeling angry (30.5%). Another emotion mentioned was helplessness.
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Article details

C del Barrio (1999) 'The Use of Semistructured Interviews and Qualitative Methods for the Study of Peer Bullying'. Available to read online.
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