School bullying starts from the age of three

Fran Abrams Education Correspondent
Friday 27 October 1995 00:02 GMT

Children are being bullied at school from the age of three or four, according to research published yesterday. The study by Liverpool John Moores University found that more than half the children who had been bullied said the problem had started at primary school.

But the research, conducted one year after the implementation of rules that require schools to have anti-bullying policies, found that most children felt able to tell an adult about the problem.

Eight out of 10 bullied pupils had told someone about their plight, with 62 per cent going to a parent and 39 per cent to a teacher. In the majority of cases, their intervention had a positive effect.

Questionnaires filled in by 3,000 pupils in the North-west, aged between 10 and 14, revealed that bullies usually operate in small groups and that the most common forms of bullying are name-calling, threats, hitting and scratching.

Just over half of those questioned said they had been bullied at some time, and 14 per cent were still being bullied at the time of the survey. One bullied pupil in 20 had been suffering for more than five years, while 17 per cent said the bullying had been going on for more than a year.

Four per cent of the pupils said they had been bullied from the age of four, and one 13-year-old girl said she had been bullied at three. But bullying most often began between the ages of nine and 11, with 52 per cent of those who were bullied saying it had started at that time.

Girls were only slightly less likely to be bullied than boys, with 15 per cent of boys and 13 per cent of girls saying they were currently being bullied.

Three-quarters of those who had been bullied had been subjected to name- calling, while half had been threatened, a third had been hit or scratched and just under a fifth had been subjected to stealing.

One pupil in five admitted to bullying, with 21 per cent of boys and 18 per cent of girls saying they had done so. When asked why they had done it, four out of 10 said it was because they disliked their victims, while 12 per cent cited peer pressure.

Three-quarters said they were aware of action against bullying by their teachers, or at least of their school having an anti-bullying policy.

Dr Anne Miller, director of the university's Centre for Consumer Education and Research, which carried out the work with BBC North West Television, said the tender age at which bullying started was surprising but that it coincided with children going out of the home.

"Once they are away from the home, then all sorts of things can be happening," she said.

Jane Kilpatrick, assistant director of Kidscape, a charity which helps bullied and abused children and their families, said it was receiving an increasing number of calls from parents of younger children.

"We are not surprised at all by these findings. They confirm what we have always known, that bullying behaviour starts young and the sooner that teachers and others working with children start stamping it out the better," she said.

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