Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

The Relationship between Perceived Parental Bonding and Bullying: The Mediating Role of Empathy

Academic journal article The European Journal of Counselling Psychology

The Relationship between Perceived Parental Bonding and Bullying: The Mediating Role of Empathy

Article excerpt


According to recent studies, bullying in schools is widespread. In the United States, 15% to 20% of children experience repeated victimization in the form of intimidation, ostracism, or physical violence by peers at some time during their school careers (Nansel et al., 2001). In Europe, cross-cultural studies have shown that between 9% and 54% of children are involved in bullying or victimization (Nansel et al., 2004). Olweus (1978, 1993, 1999) presented the first in depth study on bullying in Sweden. He defined victimization as "a student being exposed to negative actions on the part of one or more other students with the intention to hurt" (p. 32). Bullying is also defined as a systematic abuse of power (Rigby, 2002), and more specifically as an intentional repeated aggressive behaviour towards a victim, who cannot readily defend him or herself (Olweus, 1999), and which usually involves an imbalance, either real or perceived, of power or strength between the aggressor and the victim (Craig, 1998; Nansel et al., 2001).

In the 1980s, bullying was considered primarily in terms of direct physical and/or verbal attacks. Through the 1990s, the work of Bjorkqvist, Crick, Underwood, and other researchers broadened the scope to include indirect aggression (via a third party), relational aggression (the intention to damage one's peer relationships), and social aggression (damage of self-esteem and/or social status) (Dautenhahn, Woods, & Kaouri, 2007). Examples of physical bullying are hitting, kicking, pushing, and taking other's personal belongings, examples of verbal bullying are name calling and threatening, and examples of indirect bullying are excluding, isolating, gossiping, malicious rumor spreading, and the withdrawal of friendships (Wolke, Woods, Bloomfield, & Karstadt, 2000). Other forms of bullying are based on the use of technology, including threatening text messages, harassment in Internet chat rooms, and bullying via e-mail (Patchin & Hinduja, 2006).

Bullying can occur in many contexts but our main concern is bullying among children in the school context. There appears to be a lot of variation in the incidence of bullying in schools. This variation may be in part due to the differences in methods that are used to investigate the phenomenon. The most common method is self-report, i.e., asking pupils by means of questionnaires or interviews about their bullying experiences. Other assessment methods include asking teachers or pupils to nominate children, who are victims or bullies, to systematically observe children, and to record bullying incidents. In relation to this, it has been suggested that different methods of investigation may produce different bullying estimates (James, 2010). Surveys in different countries have reported victimization rates of 9 to 32%, and bullying rates of 3 to 27% (Stassen Berger, 2007). In the World Health Organization (WHO) report on 'Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children 2001/02', a survey of 35 countries, the average incidence rates of victims and bullies were both 11% (Craig & Harel-Fish, 2004). According to another recent international research in 40 countries, Greece occupies the third place in the number of students being involved in incidents of victimization either as bullies, victims or as bullies/victims (Craig, Harel-Fish, Fogel-Grinvald, et al., 2009). More specifically, in a recent research by Giovazolias, Kourkoutas, Mitsopoulou, and Georgiadi (2010) it was found that in a sample of 371 elementary school children, 16.2% were victims, 2.7% were bullies and 7.8% belonged to the bully/victim group. In another study by the General Secretariat for Youth, 29.4% of a teenage sample reported that they had been exposed to various forms of bullying by other children (Psalti, Papathanassiou, Konstantinou, & Deliyanni, 2005).

Characteristics of Bullies and Victims

A first step to explain school violence is to recognize the specific characteristics of bullies. …

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