Health Sciences

ACU's Research into Schoolyard Bullying

Professor Sheryl Hemphill from ACU’s School of Psychology headed up a major research project involving more than 920 students on the effects of schoolyard bullying, and the impact this behaviour has on bullies and victims later on in their lives. Data was gathered over 2 time periods, ages 16-17 in 2008 and again at ages 18-19 in 2010. 12% of respondents were bullies and 19% were victims.

Research found young people who engaged in bullying in secondary school were four times more likely to engage in antisocial behaviour later on in life. Professor Sheryl Hemphill along with other researchers at The Australian Catholic University also looked at the effect bullying had on its victims in later life.

Over 25% of bullies have hurt someone so badly that their target needed medical attention or attacked someone with intent to harm them, while this figure among non-bullies was only 12%. Bullies were also more likely to engage in criminal behaviour such as stealing a vehicle (41%) compared with non-bullies (12%). Psychology Professor Sheryl Hemphill commented to the Herald-Sun on the project on 7th February 2014, "Prevention is really the key to all of this. Trying to address these behaviours before they become entrenched is likely to solve a whole lot of problems down the track. If we can get in early and help them back on track, we are less likely to have young people that, perhaps if they continue with these sorts of behaviours, end up in prison.”

Victims of bullying were three times more likely to experience symptoms of depression; however these symptoms were offset by strong academic performance with the rate of depression among victims who performed well academically at 7% compared with 23% for victims who didn’t perform well.

Bullies whose parents involved them in areas like decision-making were less likely to be anti-social in later life. Prof Hemphill commented in The Daily Telegraph on 7th February 2014, "There are things we need to do in the family and also in the school environment to really reduce the likelihood of continued negative outcomes either as a bully or as a victim. It’s partly about young people knowing what to do in response to a bully."