If they tried to become "peer supporters" and help other children deal with difficult issues such as bullying they could be called wimps or gay, researchers found. Professor Helen Cowie, who carried out the work with Dr Paul Naylor, both of the school of psychology and counselling at the University of Surrey, Roehampton, added: "It took a particularly strong character to withstand criticism, otherwise they were much more likely to drop out."
Some 80 peer supporters from 35 secondaries across Britain were interviewed for thei research. Around 80 per cent of peer support co-ordinators in the schools were women teachers, and this is thought to contribute to the problem of finding boys willing to become involved in this work.
Meanwhile, other research has found that young people who have not been bullied think that a physical attack is the worst that can happen. Yet those who have actually suffered see indirect bullying, such as malicious rumours and being socially excluded, as just as distressing, says Dr Mike Eslea, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Central Lancashire.
For more details on the reports, phone the British Psychological Society helpline: 0116 254 9568 Ceri Williams