Risks and effects of bullying explored at UCL seminar

Bullying UK recently attended the UCL Institute of Education’s seminar: Bullying Experience and Effects: UK Evidence. The seminar formed part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s 2015 Festival of Social Science.

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After a moving account from Kiri Joliffe, the National Children’s Bureau’s ‘Young Person’, of her own experiences of bullying, the seminar opened to the latest evidence from the bullying field.

Dr Stella Chatzitheochari from the University of Warwick spoke about the findings detailed in her paper: Doubly Disadvantaged? Bullying Experiences among Disabled Children and Young People in England, a paper written in collaboration with the Institute of Education at UCL and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Dr Chatzitheochari explained that findings from small-scale studies suggest that child disability is associated with a greater risk of being bullied.

Dr Chatzitheochari noted that although there is a lack of longitudinal quantitative research that explores the relationship of disability and bullying, the association between disability and bullying remains even when other characteristics known to influence bullying are taken into account.

In the next segment, Dr Morag Henderson, of the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) examined the experiences of more than 7,200 young adults from across England who were born in 1989-90 and are being followed by a study called Next Steps in regards to lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) bullying.

At age 20, the young adults were asked about their sexual identity and whether they had been bullied in the previous 12 months. Dr Henderson compared this information to their experiences of being bullied in secondary school. According to this research, lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) young people are more likely than their heterosexual classmates to be bullied throughout secondary school and into adulthood.

Young LGB adults had a 52 per cent chance of having been bullied in the past year at age 20, compared to a 38 per cent chance for their heterosexual peers, after taking into account other characteristics that may make someone more likely to be targeted, such as gender, ethnicity, disability, or family socioeconomic background.

The situation had improved slightly since their school years. Between the ages of 14 and 16, young people who later went on to identify as LGB had a 56 per cent chance of having been bullied in the past year, compared to a 45 per cent chance for their heterosexual peers. However, LGB young people were at considerably greater risk of being bullied frequently – that is, once or more every fortnight – during secondary school. LGB young people were more than twice as likely as their heterosexual classmates to be regularly physically bullied and excluded from social groups.

By the time they reached age 20, young LGB adults were less likely than their heterosexual peers to report being ‘very satisfied’ with how their lives had turned out so far. However, all young adults – regardless of sexual identity – were less likely to be very satisfied with their lives if they had been bullied.

“Although all people are less likely to be bullied as they get older, young LGB adults remain at higher risk than their peers,” Dr Henderson explains. “These findings suggest that in order to tackle the problem, anti-bullying interventions cannot be focused only at schools and their pupils. Policymakers, employers, further education institutions and others working with young adults need to do just as much in order to challenge discrimination at all ages.”

In the last segment of the day Professor Louise Arseneault from King’s College London spoke about the long-term impact of being bullied, noting the impact of ‘toxic stress’ on cardiovascular health in middle age is directly linked to the experience of consistent levels of stress in early age. From her research Professor Arsenault was moved to note that bullying literally ‘gets under your skin’.

We at Bullying UK are here to help. If you are being bullied you can call us for help and support on 0808 800 2222 or by visiting www.bullying.co.uk.  You can also look through our advice and resources.

Also, learn more about what we’re doing during Anti-Bullying Week and all year round by following the links.

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