LETTER: To be a bully

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I WAS surprised to be accused of "astonishing reasoning" in my paper on attitudes to bullying (Letters, 9 April). There are two reasons why my conclusions in the piece were justified. First, there is something essentially cowardly about bullying, since it involves (by definition) the abuse of somebody who is not able to defend themselves effectively. Second, my questionnaire was based on a well-validated measure of children's attitudes towards bullying, in which the item "A bully is really a coward" has been found to correlate with other items: "It's OK to call some kids nasty names"; "It's funny to see kids get upset when they are teased"; and "Kids who get picked on a lot usually deserve it".

The study reported in my paper attempted to assess the validity of this children's questionnaire for use with an adult sample. It provides some evidence that the same factors are applicable to adult attitudes but this was a small survey. No real conclusions should be drawn from it, although the results are interesting enough to want to know more.

Mike Eslea

University of Sheffield