Bullying Behaviours : Adverse Experiences for All Involved?

Vaswani, Nina (2019) Bullying Behaviours : Adverse Experiences for All Involved? Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice, Glasgow.

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Bullying may have once been viewed as an almost inevitable nuisance on the journey from childhood to adulthood. The phrase ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ was, for many generations, a common playground refrain. In more recent years both research and policy attention has been increasingly directed towards bullying (in whichever way it manifests), as our understanding of the impact that bullying can have continues to develop. Nowadays, bullying is no longer regarded as a relatively benign element of child development (Wong & Schonlau, 2013), and others would go so far as to argue that bullying is an adverse and stressful experience that “…should be considered as another form of childhood abuse alongside physical maltreatment and neglect” (Arseneault, 2018:416). Acknowledging this, in the context of growing awareness across Scotland about the long-term effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), means that it is imperative that bullying is on everyone’s agenda, and universal prevention is key. In Scotland there is a holistic framework for those working with children and young people to address all aspects of bullying, ‘Respect for All’ (Scottish Government, 2017) which aims to support the implementation of a consistent and cohesive approach to anti-bullying in Scotland. However, understanding and addressing bullying behaviours is especially pertinent for practitioners working in youth justice and related fields as there is growing evidence that portrays an association between bullying behaviours in childhood and later involvement in offending (Sourander et al., 2011). The purpose of this paper is to draw together the evidence from a rapid review of the literature in relation to bullying and offending, especially violent offending. The paper will also present empirical evidence on bullying drawn from analysis of risk formulation records about young people at risk of serious harm to themselves and others. This will include analysis of some of the factors that may be implicated in bullying either as a precursor to bullying, or as a result of bullying behaviours, such as peer rejection and social exclusion. Importantly, as most studies explore the relationship between bullying and later offending rather than victimisation and offending, this paper will present evidence on regarding bullies, victims and bully-victims.