June 23, 2011

Do bullied young people cope differently when they're bullied in lots of different ways?

Skrzypiec, G., Slee, P., Murray-Harvey, R., & Pereira, B. (2011). School bullying by one or more ways: Does it matter and how do students cope? School Psychology International, 32, 288-311.

This research aimed to find out whether victims of bullying experience multiple forms of bullying, such as physical, verbal and ‘covert’ (e.g. rumour spreading, exclusion from groups). Also of interest was whether victims differed in how they coped – did this differ if they were bullied in more than one way?

The 452 young people involved in this study were drawn from two mainstream Secondary schools in Australia and were all aged 12-14 years old. They were asked about their experiences of being bullied in six different ways: hit/kicked, name calling, cyber-bullying, exclusion, ignored, ‘something else’. They were also asked about a number of different coping strategies: getting support from adults, getting support from friends, trying to solve the problem themselves, pretending it wasn’t happening, taking it out on someone or something else, internalising (e.g.being upset or sad), giving into the aggressor, pretending it didn’t matter, going somewhere that the bullies were not.

Prevalence: While 32% of students reported being bullied, 12% said they were being bullied ‘about once a week’ or more often. 5% said they had been bullied for a month or more.

Of those who were bullied, 32% were bullied in more than one way; 10% were bullied in all three ways (physical, verbal and covert). Of those bullied in three ways, 31% were frequently bullied (‘most days’), while those bullied in either one or two ways were bullied less frequently (only 5-6% said ‘most days’). However, the number of ways in which students were bullied did not relate to how long they had been bullied. Despite this, students who reported more forms of bullying said that they felt a lot less safe in school than those experiencing fewer types of bullying.

Coping: 5% of young people said that they did not think they were coping very well, while 58% said they felt they were coping really well with the bullying.

There were differences in how those who were bullied coped and how those who were not bullied said they would cope. For example, bullied students reported using social support less often than non-bullied students said they would use this strategy. These two groups did not differ in the degree to which they said they would/did use problem solving coping strategies.

Comparing those bullied in one way, two ways, and three ways, there were no differences in how they coped with the behaviours they were experiencing. This was interesting because the young people reported that they thought they were coping badly when they experienced more types of coping (despite apparently coping in similar ways).

I thought this was an interesting paper, especially the indication that young people who are bullied in multiple ways do no differ in terms of how they cope with aggression from their peers, and nor are they bullied for any longer. Despite these similarities, their belief that they are coping poorly suggests that they find the situation more distressing.

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