Harassment and bullying becoming a ‘vicious cycle’, research finds

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Joint research conducted by Flinders University and the University of Thessaly in Greece has shown that students’ emotional resilience is linked to their chances of being victimised, with less resilient students more likely to suffer from harassment, reducing their well-being.

The study also found that female students display lower emotional resilience, along with older students. Higher levels of resilience and well-being tended to go with being bullied less often, being a boy, and being younger.

The results were found to be troubling for female and older students, with existing research suggesting resilient adolescents are less likely to be either victims or bullies, and to suffer less emotional damage from bullying scenarios.

“These results show that bullied adolescents may develop different ways of protecting themselves from bullying, depending on their age and gender,” researchers say.

Photo: Raisingchildren.net.au

One of the authors, Dr Grace Skrzypiec, is from Flinders University, and another, Dr Eleni Didaskalou, was a Visiting Fellow there. The lead author, Dr Eleni Andreou, is from the University of Thessaly. Their study is part of a transnational research project and involved 558 students from grades 6-10.

“Research shows that adolescents with an optimal level of well‐being are more likely to demonstrate appropriate academic skills, have higher levels of school attendance and pro‐social behaviour, and be less likely to bully others.”

The study also found that gender and year level did not affect how often a student becomes a victim of bullying, and that boys and girls are likely to experience different types of harassment.

“Overt physical and verbal aggression appears to be more common among boys, whereas girls are more likely to experience underhanded bullying like spreading rumours,” the researchers say.

“There is some recent evidence that during adolescence, boys are more vulnerable to victimisation across different contexts, whereas girls’ victimisation may take place partly in their close friendships”

The researchers identified a need for schools and policymakers to address well-being and harassment support to students in a manner informed by their age and gender, noting that a one-size-fits-all approach may not work.

“Resilience‐based anti‐bullying interventions cannot be developed in the sense of ‘an approach that suits everyone’s needs.’ Potential resilience‐based anti‐bullying interventions should take into account that adolescents’ adjustment after being victimised may be affected by their age and gender.”

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