Girls suffer lion's share of bullying

16th January 2009 at 00:00
Many develop early reputation for victimhood that is hard to shed in later years, say researchers

Girls are twice as likely as boys to be repeatedly bullied throughout their time at school.

Research from Warwick and Hertfordshire universities shows that girls who are bullied at the age of six are more than twice as likely still to be victims at the age of 10 than boys of the same age.

Girls tend to be clearly identified as victims among their peer group and develop a reputation for being bullied that is hard to shake off.

This can also be exacerbated by the tight-knit and relatively inflexible nature of female friendships.

The researchers said: "This leads the aggressor to bully more, and the victim to develop . low self-esteem, loneliness, depression, anxiety and sickness, which increase in severity and make victimisation persist longer."

The academics interviewed 663 children aged six to nine about their experiences of bullying. A follow-up questionnaire was issued to pupils were in the final year of primary school.

These revealed that the nature of bullying changes as girls get older. Young children are more likely to bully or threaten their victims physically. But older girls tend to be more subtle, spreading hurtful gossip or withdrawing friendship.

The academics also looked at the role that bullying played in the lives of 171 pupils who changed schools during the course of the study.

These children were 49 per cent more likely to have suffered non-physical bullying than their classmates who remained in the same school. They also tended to have far fewer friends than their peers, and to belong to classes with strict friendship hierarchies.

The academics recommend that teachers look out for girls who may be victims of extended bullying and should be aware that this may trigger a desire to change schools. They should also establish clear intervention programmes.

They add: "Be aware of children showing signs of both physical and emotional health problems as these appear to be important risk factors for becoming and remaining a victim."

d.wolke@warwick.ac.uk

ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY? THEN WE'LL BEGIN

A giant storytelling chair designed by pupils of a London primary has been unveiled by Michael Rosen, the children's laureate.

The 28 pupils, now at secondary schools, went back to Midfield Primary in Bromley, Kent, on Wednesday for the event.

The 5ft metal chair, designed in co-operation with artist Maggie Higginson, is in the playground and incorporates the motto: "Story time is here, listen with your ear."

Wendy Seeley, head of the school which includes a unit for children with severe and complex communication difficulties, said she wanted children to create their own special place to enjoy reading and telling stories.

She said: "Children come in at three years old unable to speak and with poor social skills. They may never have handled a book."

Mrs Seeley joined the school in 2006 just after it had come out of special measures. This year, 73 per cent of the pupils reached level 4 in English.

Helen Ward.

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