Bullying levels in poor areas revealed

One in three young primary school children in high poverty regions in Dublin are victims of bullying, according to a new study.

While the study found a third of children between the age of eight and 12 admitted to being bullied, the number went up to three quarters of children admitting to being a victim of one or more of a list of aggressive playground behaviours.

Over half of the children (52%) experienced nasty name-calling while just under half (47%) said they were teased or made fun of and over four out of 10 (42%) were pushed or hit for no reason.

Cyberbullying was an issue for one in five with 12.2% of the children saying they had been bullied though the mobile phone while 7.5% of children had experienced bullying through the internet.

Just over a fifth of children has been asked for money (22%) while just under a third had belongings taken or broken (31%) and just under a quarter had been ganged up on (24%).

The report, Victimisation in Urban Primary School of High Poverty Areas, was compiled by Dr John Hyland and Dr Pauline Hyland from the Department of Psychology in the Dublin Business School and Prof Catherine Comiskey from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College.

Worryingly, the study which has just been published in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Journal, revealed that over half of children felt that their school was not doing enough to combat school aggression.

The survey was carried out on 458 Irish primary school children from first to fifth class across seven state-funded DEIS Dublin schools.

The most frequent self-reported reason for victimisation was appearance in 36% of cases, followed by size or weight in 29% of cases.

The study found children were victimised over their clothes worn in a quarter of cases, while 16% of the children were targeted over their family background, skin colour or religion.

In 12% of cases, children said they were victimised over illness or disability.

The study revealed that children tended to look most to teachers when they were being victimised in school and to parents when outside of school.

“A concern is that the third most frequent option was keeping victimisation secret,” noted the report.

Using a specialised questionnaire to measure children’s health-related quality of life, the researchers found that children who were bullying victims scored lower than children who were not victims of bullying.

The study also stated: “Victims of school aggression demonstrated significantly higher depression rates compared with non-victims.

“Furthermore, more frequent victimisation related to pronounced depression levels.”

The research, funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, found the percentage of bullying victims in primary schools in high poverty areas was “consistent with data from more affluent areas”.

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