Students who bully or are victims of bullying in Year 7 are at a higher risk of playing the same roles between Years 8 and 11, according to a new study conducted by Flinders University in Adelaide.
The study, titled ‘Involvement in bullying during high school: A survival analysis approach’ also found that Year 7 bullies were more likely to become the victims of bullying during their high school years.
Dr Grace Skrzypiec of Flinders University, the lead author of the study, said that while some students continued to bully or fall victim to bullying, new bullies and victims emerged during each year of high school.
A total of 1382 students across three groups formed the basis for the study, which found that students who bullied others in Year 7 had a 40.5% chance of being bullies at some point from Years 8 to 11, while students who had nothing to do with bullying only had a 10.7% chance.
Victims of bullying in Year 7 had a 56.3% chance of becoming victims from Years 8 to 11, while those not involved in any bullying had a 17.5% chance. The chance of Year 7 bullies becoming victims in high school was also high at 54.9%.
Students’ overall risk of being affected by high school bullying by Year 11 was 16% for being a bully, 36% for being a victim, and 13% for being a bully-victim: someone who has both bullied others and been bullied.
Boys were more than three times more likely than girls to be a bully in at least one year from Years 8 to 11, while girls and boys were equally likely to be victims.
The proportion of students who were bullies in each year level from 7 to 11 was similar, suggesting that while new bullies emerge each year, some stop as well.
Dr Skrzypiec said the study has important implications for bullying prevention, adding that the emergence of new bullies and victims each year suggests that anti-bullying interventions should continue throughout high school, adapted for each age group.
“It is important to nuance types of bullying prevention interventions, taking into account the intensity and severity of the bullying, and the understanding that older students are more likely to seek the support of peers rather than teachers or parents,” said Dr Skrzypiec.
“While these statistics help us to understand the complexities of being involved in bullying in high school as a victim, bully or both, it is critical that we avoid placing labels on students or singling out individuals.
“Rather, this knowledge should be used to design programs that enhance positive, age-appropriate student relationships for all students throughout high school.”