Teacher’s Guide to Bullying, Part 2: Who’s At Risk?

Author, trainer and practitioner Adrienne Katz is a director of the Bullying Intervention Group (BIG Award) which runs a national award for excellence in bullying intervention. She a partner in many research programmes and runs the Cybersurvey, exploring the online experiences of young people and their views on the e-safety education they have received (see her full bio below). We asked her a series of questions about bullying, and the following is her answers, in her own words!

Are there some students who are more likely to experience bullying?


While the whole emphasis of bullying intervention work strives to avoid labelling kids, it is true that data we collect regularly from anonymous pupil surveys does show that some people are being targeted more than others. Any difference, whether real or perceived can lead to prejudice driven bullying – therefore, instead of pressuring people to conform – an impossible and unjustified approach – it is more constructive to actively teach children to challenge stereotypes and prejudice.

From the earliest school experiences children need to learn and understand about disabilities, ways in which we all different and yet the same, how wrong it is to judge someone by a single aspect of their being. Why should red heads be singled out any more than people with blonde hair? Why should people by targeted because they are from a different race, religion or culture? We do see that students who are caring for an ill parent and often siblings too, experience high levels of bullying.

This is also true of those in state care; those who experience homophobic bullying and in some settings girls experience gender bias and unwanted sexual jokes and innuendo. People with special educational needs or disabilities report very high levels of bullying and yet some of them are unable to recognise when they are being bullied and we need to train their peers to report it for them. Students who are going through major problem s at home such as bereavement or loss, parental break up and other upheavals can for a time become vulnerable even if they were not before.

Both bullies and victims were significantly more likely than their peers to report violence in the home including hitting as a punishment. We also know from a study of parenting style, that over protective parenting can render a child more vulnerable to bullying.[1]

A review of 70 studies looking at 200,000 children suggests parents who "buffer" children from negative experiences make them more vulnerable. [2] But children who have harsh or negative parents are most likely to be bullied, it finds.

This is also the case when parenting style is harsh and punitive. The child can come to believe they are bad and somehow deserving of this bullying behaviour both at home and at school (others react in the opposite way and become aggressive so as never to be on the receiving end again.)

Other notes:

  • Girls are reporting higher levels of cyberbullying than boys
  • Boys are reporting higher levels of homophobic bullying than girls

What do we know about the lasting effects of bullying?

The latest research by Wolke and Arseneaul:

Bullying adversely affects children in later life even more than being maltreated by adults according to research from the University of Warwick presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Diego. In fact Professor Wolke has said that bullying may be seen as a greater public health risk than obesity because of the long term impacts. (testimony to the all-party parliamentary group on bullying in the UK Parliament).

Adult mental health consequences of peer bullying and maltreatment in childhood, according to The Lancet Psychiatry:

Children who are bullied can still experience negative effects on their physical and mental health more than 40 years later, say researchers from King's College London.

Prof Louise Arseneault from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London led another longitudinal study. This study tracked 7,771 children born in 1958 from the age of seven until 50. Those bullied frequently as children were at an increased risk of depression and anxiety, and more likely to report a lower quality of life at 50.

The study found that those who were bullied in childhood were more likely to have poorer physical and mental health but also poorer cognitive functioning at 50. More depression and suicidal thoughts plus social and economic consequences to childhood bullying were measured.

Those bullied as children were more likely to be less educated, and men who were bullied are more likely to be unemployed and earn less as adults.

Social relationships were also affected with bullied individuals less likely to be in a relationship and to have good support from friends and family at 50.

Part One: Can Teachers Prevent Bullying?


[1] Katz, A. Buchanan, A. Bream, V. 2001 Bullying in Britain, testimonies from teenagers. Young Voice in association with the University of Oxford.

[2] Suzet Tanya Lereya, Muthanna Samara, Dieter Wolke. Parenting behavior and the risk of becoming a victim and a bully/victim: A meta-analysis study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 2013


About the Author:

Adrienne Katz is a director of the Bullying Intervention Group (BIG Award)Author, trainer and practitioner, a partner in many research programmes and runs the Cybersurvey, exploring the online experiences of young people and their views of the education on e-safety they have received (2008-current). This information helps inform training programmes for schools. Adrienne was formerly a Regional Adviser to local councils and schools in an England-wide national programme, ‘The Anti-Bullying Alliance’ and has developed or written several items of government guidance on bullying in partnership with NSPCC and Council for Disabled Children.

Adrienne is the author of:

  • ‘Cyberbullying and e-safety: what educators and other professionals need to know.’ 2012
  • ‘Making your primary school e-safe’ 2015
  • ‘Making your secondary school e-safe’ 2016, all published by www.jkp.com/usa London and Philadelphia

Teacher’s Guide to Bullying, Part 1: Can Teachers Prevent Bullying?