In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section School Bullying

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Types of Bullying
  • Bullying Roles
  • Prevalence of Bullying Worldwide
  • Gender Differences
  • Theories of Bullying
  • Measurement and Methodological Issues
  • Outcomes of Bullying
  • Interventions for School Bullying

Criminology School Bullying
Lucy Bowes
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 June 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 June 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0181


Bullying victimization began to be systematically researched only in the early 1970s following a number of suicides by young children that appeared to be the direct result of repeated harassment by peers. The subsequent decades have witnessed an explosion in research on school bullying. A widely accepted definition of bullying in the research literature is that provided by Dan Olweus: bullying victimization is said to occur to a person when “he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself” (Olweus 1993, p. 8). This definition encompasses three main points. First, bullying is a subset of aggressive behavior and so the definition emphasizes intentionally negative or aggressive acts. Intention to cause harm is a key aspect of more general forms of aggressive behavior. Second, bullying involves a series of hurtful actions that are repeated over time. One-off incidences involving acts of aggression between individuals would not be classed as bullying behavior. Third, the relationship between the bully and the victim is characterized by an asymmetric power imbalance either real or perceived, making it difficult for the victim to defend him- or herself. Physical strength, popularity, age, or ratio of bullies to victims are all examples of factors that can characterize such a power imbalance. It would not be classed as bullying if students of approximately the same strength (physical or psychological) are fighting or quarrelling. Most research on childhood bullying involvement has focused on school bullying (the subject of this article); however, bullying can occur in a multitude of settings.

General Overviews

Several books provide excellent overviews of bullying research. Olweus 1993 is considered a classic, in part as the author is considered the pioneer of research into school bullying. He established the widely used Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (the focus of the second half of Olweus 1993). Jimerson, et al. 2010 provides an international overview that covers key issues in concepts, measurement, and evidence-based intervention and prevention. Rigby 2008 is written with school teachers and parents in mind, and covers evidence-based practical guides for how to tackle bullying, while Rigby 2002 provides a much-needed perspective from children themselves. Two excellent journal articles provide a general review of the literature on bullying, including Arseneault, et al. 2010, which focuses more on the impact of bullying on children’s mental health, and Salmivalli 2010, a review that focuses more on bullying as a group.

  • Arseneault, L., L. Bowes, and S. Shakoor. 2010. Bullying victimization in youths and mental health problems: “Much ado about nothing”? Psychological Medicine 40.5: 717–729.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0033291709991383

    This review article focuses on bullying victimization and the impact it has on children’s mental health. Topics covered include how bullying is measured, risk and protective factors, and the long-lasting effects of chronic victimization.

  • Jimerson, S. R., S. M. Swearer, and D. L. Espelage, eds. 2010. Handbook of bullying in schools: An international perspective. New York: Routledge.

    An edited handbook that includes chapters written by many of the most eminent scholars in the field and covers everything form neurobiology through theoretical considerations and evidence-based interventions.

  • Olweus, D. 1993. Bullying at school. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Written by the founder of modern research on bullying, Dan Olweus’s book defines and describes bullying, relying primarily on Scandinavian research. The book also provides the theory and details for his famous Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.

  • Rigby, K. 2002. New perspectives on bullying. London: Jessica Kingsley.

    Although some of the research is now a little outdated, Ken Rigby’s book provides an excellent overview on the various ways in which bullying has been defined, conceptualized, and researched both historically and in different cultures.

  • Rigby, K. 2008. Children and bullying: How parents and educators can reduce bullying at school. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    Written primarily for parents and teachers, yet with a strong emphasis on evidence-based research, this is provides a clear and concise overview of bullying, how it affects individuals and families, and what can be done about it.

  • Salmivalli, C. 2010. Bullying and the peer group: A review. Aggression and Violent Behavior 15:112–120.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.avb.2009.08.007

    This review article focuses on bullying as a group process and details research investigating the different roles chlidren may have within this process and how it may affect them.

  • Vernberg, E. M., and B. K. Biggs. 2010. Preventing and treating bullying and victimization. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    An up-to-date and comprehensive overview of bullying research with a focus on the theoretical underpinning of research into bullying, a section on how bullying is measured, and the interventions that have been designed and evaluated to address the problem as well as policy and practical implications.

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