The behaviour of bullying

Research by PhD student Hannah Thomas and Associate Professor James Scott are looking at the mental health outcomes of bullying among youth.

Bullying is a prevalent problem among youth worldwide. In Australia it affects at least 1 in 10 students in a school term.

PhD student Hannah Thomas, a researcher at the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research and the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, and child and adolescent psychiatrist Associate Professor James Scott are undertaking research that aims to better understand the development and outcomes associated with bullying behaviour in young people.

“Bullying is a problem that can continue to affect young people in both the short and long term. Reducing bullying behaviour in youth would improve mental health,” Hannah says.

Bullying involves behaviour that is intended to harm, occurs repeatedly, and involves a power imbalance between the aggressor and the victim. It can include verbal attacks and physical behaviour, as well as relational aggression such spreading as rumours or social exclusion. Cyberbullying can happen remotely, anonymously, and continuously at school and home, and has the potential to have a larger audience.

“There are many similarities between ‘traditional’ bullying and cyberbullying, but there are also important differences,” Hannah says. “Traditional forms of bullying are about twice as common as cyberbullying. The types of behaviour tend to co-occur. It is important that we don’t shift focus completely to cyberbullying; we need to address bullying in all its forms.”

Hannah says that around half the number of young people who are bullied seek help; therefore an equally large number do not. The researchers believe we need
to encourage young people to report experiences of bullying, and for adults to take effective action.

By incorporating epidemiological studies using large mental health surveys and birth cohorts, as well as schoolbased self-report surveys, the research contributes to the longitudinal evidence showing that involvement in bullying puts young people at increased risk of mental health and substance use problems in early adulthood.

“Our research highlights the important role heath professionals play in identifying and treating young people who experience bullying,” Hannah says.

“Our research has also shown that while all forms of bullying are associated with poor mental health, young people who experience social exclusion from their peers have a greater risk of experiencing poor mental health.

“In Australia, we need to improve schools’ access to evidence-based interventions for bullying so effective decisions can be made on the allocation of resources to
address the issue.”

The research team has produced a number of publications that have been published in scientific journals, including Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Aggressive Behavior, Journal of Adolescence, and World Journal of Psychiatry.

Research findings will be shared with the broader  community through panel discussions, community forums and public lectures on bullying.

The next step is to identify effective ways to implement intervention and prevention strategies to address bullying and cyberbullying as this may present a cost-effective wayto prevent mental illness among young people.

2017-11-29T01:43:59+00:0028 November 2017|
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