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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Bullied pupils say names do hurt
generic bullying
Being ignored can be as damaging as being hit
Victims of bullying say it is not sticks and stones but rather name-calling and being left out that cause most misery.

But people who have not been bullied tend to think physical bullying is worse, Dr Mike Eslea told the British Psychological Society conference in Glasgow.

The problem is that anti-bullying initiatives tend to concentrate on physical bullying

Dr Mike Eslea
In total, Dr Eslea of the University of Central Lancashire, surveyed 400 people - 100 boys, 100 girls and 100 male and female adults respectively.

The main problem for those who were psychologically bullied was that they did not know how to respond.

"People don't know how to react with this kind of bullying, they are at a loss and so they can't stop the bullying and it just goes on," Dr Eslea.

Hard to identify

While Dr Eslea was supportive of policies in schools to stamp out bullying, psychological tormentors were not easy to catch, he warned.

"With anti-bullying programmes it's relatively easy to get a short-term decrease, but it tends to rise again," he said.

"The problem is that anti-bullying initiatives tend to concentrate on physical bullying and it's fairly easy to spot that and root it out.

"But it's difficult to enforce social exclusion - you can't force people to be friends and so it's difficult for schools," Dr Eslea said.

It was particularly difficult to reduce bullying among girls, as they were more likely to use psychological forms of bullying, he added.

Peer support

Dr Elsea suggested that encouraging pupils to become more aware of the effect their behaviour could have on others was one way to tackle psychological bullying.

"It's good to create a co-operative ethos, if you like," he said.

Other research presented to the BPS conference suggested organised peer support groups in schools were effective in the fight against bullying.

Professor Helen Cowie and Dr Paul Naylor of the University of Surrey, Roehampton, investigated programmes at over 50 schools in England and Wales over two years.

The initiatives were found to be highly regarded by pupils as "making school a safer place to be", Professor Cowie said.

"The peer support programmes also greatly increased the confidence and social skills of those acting as mentors," she said.

Boys' struggle

"It's a good system and works well, but there is gender issue for boys - they don't see it as their right stereotype.

"They're just as good at it as girls, but they face more difficulties than girls in getting involved," the professor said.

The use of computers and websites was one way to get boys more involved, she said.

And it was important to move away from a counselling model, as boys were wary of "too much emotion".

Boys would also get more involved if male teachers took up a role in the schemes, she suggested.

Further research presented to the conference by Professor Peter Smith and Dr Lorenzo Talamelli, of Goldsmith's College, London University, found that youngsters with a good network of social support - such as a group of friends - were less likely to be bullied.

And Professor Anthony Pellegrini, of the University of Minnesota in the United States, said bullies were concerned with social status among their peers and were unlikely to target those with allies.

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See also:

24 Jan 01 | Education
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13 Dec 00 | Education
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29 Aug 99 | Education
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