Bully/victim Problems in Northern Ireland's Schools: Data from the 2003 Young Persons' Behavior and Attitude Survey

By Mc Guckin, Conor; Cummins, Pauline K. et al. | Adolescence, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Bully/victim Problems in Northern Ireland's Schools: Data from the 2003 Young Persons' Behavior and Attitude Survey


Mc Guckin, Conor, Cummins, Pauline K., Lewis, Christopher Alan, Adolescence


Although the international literature on the nature, prevalence, and correlates of bully/victim problems is burgeoning (see Smith, Morita, Junger-Tas, Olweus, Catalano, and Slee, 1999 for a review), it is apparent that this work on a country and region basis is sporadic in nature. Considering that Northern Ireland is emerging from almost four decades of ethno-political conflict (Cairns & Darby, 1998), comparatively little is known about the nature, incidence, and correlates of low-level aggression, such as bully/victim problems among Northern Ireland school pupils (Mc Guckin & Lewis, 2003).

In total, just ten studies have explored the nature, incidence, and correlates of bully/victim problems among Northern Irish school pupils (Callaghan & Joseph, 1995; Collins & Bell, 1996; Collins, Mc Aleavy, & Adamson, 2002, 2004; Grant, 1996; Livesey, Mc Aleavy, Donegan, Duffy, O'Hagan, Adamson, & White, 2007; Mc Guckin & Lewis, 2006; Mc Guckin, Cummings, & Lewis, in press, under review a, Mc Guckin, Lewis & Cummings, under review b; Taylor, 1996). In addition, one study (Mc Guckin & Lewis, 2008) has provided information on the management of bully/victim problems in Northern Ireland's schools prior to the implementation of legislation (The Education and Libraries [Northern Ireland] Order 2003) regarding this area of school management policy (see Ananiadou and Smith 2002 for a review of legal requirements in European countries).

Callaghan and Joseph (1995) employed Neary and Joseph's (1994) Peer Victimization Scale (PVS) and a single item "Are there any children who are bullied in the classroom?" among 120 10- to 12-year-old pupils attending two post-primary schools in Northern Ireland. Seventy pupils (58.33%), including 13 (10.83%) self-identified victims were mentioned by at least one of their peers as someone who was bullied. The mean score of the 70 self- and peer-nominated victims on the PVS (Neary & Joseph, 1994) was significantly higher than the mean score for those pupils not identified as victims. Indeed, the difference found between the mean score of the 13 self-identified victims and the mean score of the 50 pupils not identified as victims was even greater.

Collins and Bell (1996) utilized Olweus' (1989) Bully/Victim Questionnaire (BVQ) among 118 8- to 10-year-old pupils from three Belfast primary schools; 24% (18% boys, 6% girls) of pupils were identified as bullies. Comparable figures for victims, bully/victims, and bystanders were not reported. They also reported a significant positive relationship between self-reports of bullying on the BVQ (Olweus, 1989) and peer nominations given to bullies regarding aggressive-disruptive behavior on the Revised Class Play method (a measure of social reputation; Masten, Morison, & Pellegrini, 1985). Bullies also scored higher on all categories of the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC: Harter, 1985) except for the Behavioral Conduct and Self-Competence sub-scales. Indeed, it was reported that bullies scored lower on the Behavioral Conduct sub-scale than victims and bystanders. Victims were reported to have had low levels of self-esteem on all sub-scales of the SPPC (Harter, 1985).

Taylor (1996) administered the BVQ (Olweus, 1989) to 145 post-primary students to examine the efficacy of Anti-Bullying Policies; 22% of the pupils in schools with Anti-Bullying policies reported being bullied compared with 31% in the control schools with no policy in place. However, chi-square analysis of the data found no statistically significant difference between policy and no-policy schools.

Grant (1996) among 150 (82 boys, 68 girls) grade 6 primary pupils, found that in response to the question: "Have you ever been bullied?", 59.33% (n = 89; 68% of boys, 49% of girls) responded that they had been bullied.

The findings of Callaghan and Joseph (1995), Collins and Bell (1996), Taylor (1996), and Grant (1996) were limited due to their small sample sizes and unrepresentative nature. …

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