A Review of the Extent, Nature, Characteristics and Effects of Bullying Behaviour in Schools

By Aluede, Oyaziwo; Adeleke, Fajoju et al. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, June 2008 | Go to article overview

A Review of the Extent, Nature, Characteristics and Effects of Bullying Behaviour in Schools


Aluede, Oyaziwo, Adeleke, Fajoju, Omoike, Don, Afen-Akpaida, Justina, Journal of Instructional Psychology


Bullying behaviour no doubt is becoming a common feature, and a nightmare in schools all over the world. It is a worrisome practice in schools because it infringes on the child's right to human dignity, privacy, freedom and security. The physical, emotional and educational consequences of bullying behaviour can never be underestimated. Therefore, this endeavour attempted to further expose us to the meaning, history, extent and nature of bullying behaviour in schools. The characteristics of bullies and their victims and the effects of bullying on the child's mental health were also discussed.

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School has always been recognized as an institution for the transfer of knowledge and culture to the future generation. It is a dynamic human system dedicated to the nurturing of mutual growth and understanding between children and adults (Schultz, Glass & Kamholtz, 1987; Rutter, 1995).

In schools, the learners are the centre of focus. They are of utmost importance hence, adequate information about the students is necessary for any meaningful learning to take place. For teachers' efforts not to be wasted and for learners to change along with the set goals, such factors that affect learning and teaching, which include child growth, age, heredity, interest, home and social effects and violence in school (including school bullying and peer victimization) need to be addressed.

From the psychological perspective, bullying as a behavioural characteristics can be conceptualized in a number of ways. It can also be taken to be a subset of aggressive behaviours. As with aggressive behaviours generally, bullying intentionally causes hurt to the recipient. This hurt can be both physical and psychological. Bullying behaviour infringes upon the child's right to human dignity, privacy, freedom and security. It has an influence on the victim's physical, emotional, social and educational well being (Wet, 2005).

Bullies frequently target people who are different from themselves and they seek to exploit those differences. They select victims they think are unlikely to retaliate such as persons who are overweight, wear glasses, or have obvious physical differences like big ears or severe acne. Such victims are common subjects of ridicule in the hands of bullies. However, these differences do not necessarily need to be physical, as students who learn at a different pace or are anxious or insecure can also be targets for bullies. Bullies resort to this abusive behaviour as a way of dealing with difficult situations at home such as broken homes, or partial separation from parents. Some bullies may see their behaviours as normal because they grow up from families in which everyone regularly gets angry and shouts.

Whatever the situation or causes, bullies usually pick on others as a way of dealing with their own problems. In some cases, bullies pick on others because they need a victim (someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker), or because they try to gain acceptance and feel more important, popular, or in control. Thus, the thrust of this paper therefore is to bring to further knowledge the concept of bullying, the characteristics of the students who are bullied, the characteristics of the victims, the nature and extent of bullying and the outcome of bullying.

The Concept of Bullying

Bullying is not a new phenomenon among school children. Most adults can remember incidents of bullying in which they were the bullies or the intended victims. Bullying has only received research attention since the early 1970's when Dan Olweus, a Norwegian researcher began to study this area. At that time, strong societal interest in bullying/victim problem emerged in Scandinavia, where bullying was known as "mobbing". Olweus' 1978 book, "Aggression in the Schools--Bullies and Whipping Boys", is considered a landmark and the first systematic study of the phenomenon of bullying (Noelle, 2005)

Bullying can be described as repeated negative events, which over time are directed at special individuals and which are carried out by one or several other people who are stronger than the victim. …

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