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Associations between Secondary School Pupils' Definitions of Bullying, Attitudes towards Bullying, and Tendencies to Engage in Bullying: age and sex differences

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A self-report questionnaire about involvement in different types of bullying, what behaviours were regarded as bullying, and attitudes towards bullying, bullies and victims was completed by pupils in Year 7 (aged 11/12) through to Year 10 (aged 14/15) (n = 170). Overall, direct verbal assault was the most commonly reported, and stealing the least frequently reported, type of bullying. For six specific types of bullying investigated, and for a composite measure of all types of bullying, significantly fewer Year 9 pupils than pupils in the other three years reported that they had behaved in these ways in the previous week. No significant sex differences emerged on these measures. These findings suggest that general patterns in bullying activities as a function of age and sex obtained in previous studies do not always hold. Although most pupils indicated that they thought that six out of eight types of behaviour viewed as bullying by researchers should be regarded as bullying, a substantial minority did not. The present study also extended bullying research by examining associations between pupils' definitions and attitudes towards bullying and their reports of bullying others. For one specific type of bullying, 'Forcing people to do things that they don't want to do', significantly fewer pupils who reported that they had behaved in this way than who reported that they had not done so included it in their definition of bullying. A consistent pattern of significant negative correlations of moderate size between attitudes and self-reported involvement in specific types of bullying were obtained. The implications of these findings for those concerned with tackling bullying in schools were discussed.
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Document Type: Special Article

Publication date: December 1, 2002

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