Infant children are clued up on who exactly are bullies, victims, bystanders and defenders - and how they feel about them.
Interviews with just over 100 four to six-year-olds identified which of their peers fit into those four roles and who they liked most and least in their class. The data reveal that defenders are the most popular, bullies the least popular and victims and bystanders somewhere in between.
While children at this age are more likely to experience physical bullying than verbal assault or social exclusion by others, their victimisation is short-lived and doesn't affect their popularity with peers. Boy bullies in reception and Year 1 outnumber girls seven to one and use more physical methods, while girls resort to verbal attacks.
But more than twice as many girls as boys were identified as defenders who sand up for the victim by either getting the bully to stop, telling an adult or comforting the victim. Of all the groups, they have the highest status.
By taking bullying seriously in infant classes, teachers can nip aggressive behaviour patterns in the bud and save bullies and victims future problems. The most effective approach, recommend the authors, involves focusing on the whole group rather than on the bully and his victim.
Bullying behaviour in infant classes and its relation to sociometric status by C Monks, P K Smith and J Swettenham, Goldsmiths College, University of London and University College London. email: email@example.com Bullying behaviour in infant classes and its relation to sociometric status by C Monks, P K Smith and J Swettenham, Goldsmiths College, University of London and University College London. email: firstname.lastname@example.org