Less resilient students more likely to be harassed – study

Less resilient students more likely to be harassed – study

Each year in Australia, more than 900,000 Australian students report being victims of bullying. But while there is no shortage of efforts to tackle this important issue, these efforts can have varying degrees of success based on how they actually work.

One report has identified two factors that are related to negative outcomes in anti-bullying strategies – namely the severity of the reported emotional distress experienced by the bullied child and the bullying being perpetrated relatively frequently by groups rather than by individuals.

Further complicating this issue are findings from new a study, which shows students’ emotional resilience is linked to their chances of being victimised.

The study, conducted by Dr Grace Skrzypiec from Flinders University and Dr Eleni Didaskalou – a Visiting Fellow at the University – was part of a transnational research project and involved 558 students from grades 6-10. The study’s lead author, Dr Eleni Andreou, is from the University of Thessaly in Greece.

According to the researchers, less resilient students more likely to suffer from harassment, reducing their well-being. Female students were found to display lower emotional resilience, along with older students.

These results are troubling for female and older students, since existing research suggests that resilient adolescents are less likely to be either victims or bullies, and to suffer less emotional damage from bullying scenarios.

“These results show that bullied adolescents may develop different ways of protecting themselves from bullying, depending on their age and gender,” the researchers said.

“Research shows that adolescents with an optimal level of well‐being are more likely to demonstrate appropriate academic skills, have higher levels of school attendance and pro‐social behaviour, and be less likely to bully others.”

The study also found that gender and year level did not affect how often a student becomes a victim of bullying, and that boys and girls are likely to experience different types of harassment.

“Overt physical and verbal aggression appears to be more common among boys, whereas girls are more likely to experience underhanded bullying like spreading rumours,” the researchers explained.

“There is some recent evidence that during adolescence, boys are more vulnerable to victimisation across different contexts, whereas girls' victimisation may take place partly in their close friendships”.

The researchers identify a need for schools and policymakers to address well-being and harassment support to students in a manner informed by their age and gender, noting that a one-size-fits-all approach may not work.

“Resilience‐based anti‐bullying interventions cannot be developed in the sense of ‘an approach that suits everyone's needs,” the researchers said.

“Potential resilience‐based anti‐bullying interventions should take into account that adolescents' adjustment after being victimised may be affected by their age and gender”.