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Perceptions of control in the victims of school bullying : the importance of early intervention

Hunter, Simon C. and Boyle, J. (2002) Perceptions of control in the victims of school bullying : the importance of early intervention. Educational Research, 44 (3). pp. 323-336. ISSN 0013-1881

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Improvements in anti-bullying strategies are likely to depend upon a greater understanding of the psychological processes at work. Transactional theories of coping may be appropriate models to use when examining how the victims of bullying cope with victimization. Research has started to examine the coping strategy aspects of such theories but has neglected the process of appraisal. The current paper aims to address this by examining the perceptions of control in the victims of bullying, and how these are influenced by such variables as gender and the severity, persistence and type of bullying experienced. A self-report questionnaire examining coping responses and perceptions of control regarding the bullying situation was administered to 348 children aged nine to 11 years. Data from the victims of bullying (N = 184) revealed that girls felt less in control of frequent bullying than infrequent bullying, a trend not evident in boys (p < 0.05). In addition, a significantly higher proportion of the male victims of bullying felt more in control than female victims (p < 0.01). Finally, victims of short-term bullying were significantly more likely to feel in control than were victims of longer-term bullying (p < 0.05). The complex relationship between gender, perceptions of control, and the persistence and frequency of bullying has implications for early intervention and for professionals working with the victims of bullying.