What goes around comes around, for some that is. If you bully, you’re more likely to continue to bully or receive a comeuppance, however the best strategy seems to be to stay clear of the entire thing.
A new study of 1382 students across three cohorts found that kids who were bullies or victims of bullying in Year 7 were at higher risk of doing the same thing between Year 8 and 11.
But the study also found that conversely, Year 7 bullies were also more likely to become victims in high school.
Dr Grace Skrzypiec of Flinders University, the lead author of the study, says that while some kids continued to bully or fall victim to bullying, “new victims and bullies emerged during each year of high school.”
Students bullied others in Year 7 had a 40.5% chance of being bullies at some point from Years 8 to 11, while students who had nothing to do with bullying only had a 10.7% chance.
Victims of bullying in Year 7 had a 56.3% chance of becoming victims from Years 8 to 11, while those not involved in bullying then had only a 17.5% chance. The chance of Year 7 bullies becoming victims in high school was also high at 54.9%.
Students’ overall risk of being affected by high school bullying by Year 11 was 16% for being a bully, 36% for being a victim, and 13% for being a bully-victim: someone who has both bullied others and been bullied.
Boys were over three times more likely than girls to be a bully in at least one year from Years 8 to 11, while girls and boys were equally likely to be victims. Skrzypiec suggests this may relate to the maturity gap: the tendency of adolescent boys to develop later than girls in brain development for social skills and inhibition.
The proportion of students who were bullies in each year level from 7 to 11 was similar, suggesting that while new bullies emerge each year, some stop as well.
Skrzypiec says the study has important implications for bullying prevention. On the one hand, students’ frequent lapse into their primary school roles in high school suggests that schools should pay special attention to students’ former involvement in bullying during the transition from primary to high school.
At the same time, the emergence of new bullies and victims each year suggests that anti-bullying interventions should continue throughout high school, adapted for each age group.
“It is important to nuance types of bullying prevention interventions, taking into account the intensity and severity of the bullying, and the understanding that older students are more likely to seek the support of peers rather than teachers or parents,” said Skrzypiec.
“While these statistics help us to understand the complexities of being involved in bullying in high school as a victim, bully or both, it is critical that we avoid placing labels on students or singling out individuals.
“Rather, this knowledge should be used to design programs that enhance positive, age-appropriate student relationships for all students throughout high school.”
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