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del Barrio, Cristina
Autonomic University of  Madrid, Spain

Ortega, Rosario
University of Seville, Spain

Symposium Abstract

Aggression is perverse when affecting children and adolescents. Perhaps it is even more to detest when the author of this aggression is another child. Peer bullying is a particular type of aggression, consisting of a harmful and long lasting relationship of victimisation,  paradoxically based on a difference of power between peers. Being a kind of relationship often hidden from adult's eyes, first studies on peer bullying attempted to identify the characteristics of this kind of asymmetric relationship and its epidemiology in different populations. New approaches to the phenomenon using various methodologies and exploring new areas have been tried recently. At this symposium, issues related to school bullying within the general frame of an EC-funded Project are approached. Some presentations focus on bullying in the minds of people at different ages, using various methods: autobiographical narratives, interpretations of pictorial material containing a bullying story. Other works look at intervention, as for instance how to solve conflicts by means of mediation.


Almeida, A., del Barrio*, C.  and Menesini**, E.
Instituto de Estudos da CrianÇa, Universidade do Minho, Braga, Portugal. *Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Autonomic University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.**Department of Psyhology, University of Firenze, Firenze, Italy.

Past research in the area of peer bullying has primarily made use of questionnaire surveys. Despite the relevance of this method for assessing the existence and severity of bullying in different settings, other methods are currently being developed in order to obtain a wider understanding of the subject’s representations of bullying relationships. To this purpose, a psychological instrument called SCAN-Bullying (Scripted CArtoons Narratives on bullying) is proposed. This instrument consists of a series of 15 cartoons, illustrating a prototypical story of peer bullying, that aims to capture the many aspects of the phenomenon in a school setting. In addition to the scripted-cartoon narrative, we developed an interview with the aim of addressing the following questions: i) whether children think of the story as related to bullying; ii) what kind of causes they attribute to bullying; iii) what kind of emotional experience they attribute to the characters of the story; iv) whether and in what way they relate to or sympathise with the characters’ emotional states; v) what type of strategies they would employ for coping with the distressing situations typically involved in a bullying relationship. The results of the validation study of SCAN-Bullying carried out in Braga (Portugal), Madrid (Spain) and  Florence (Italy) are presented. A total of 180 children were interviewed, with equal numbers of children in the subgroups corresponding to age (9, 11 and 13 years), country and gender. Beyond the advantages of SCAN-Bullying as methodological resource for exploring the cognition regarding bullying relationships, the results show the improving narrative ability across the age-groups. A target-effect in emotions attributed to aggressors and victims, and a differentiation between these emotions and the interviewee’s experience of those, are found especially in the eldest group of age. Age and target effects are also apparent in the causal explanation of bullying. Interaction effect of causation by aggressor, victim and social context was primarily found in 13 year olds.


Singer, M., Smith, P.K., Cooper*, C.L. and Hoel*, H.
Goldsmiths College, University of London, London, UK. *Manchester School of Management, UMIST, UK.

We aimed to examine whether reported roles in school bullying, and victimisation in the workplace, are connected; the influence of victim coping strategies; and sex differences.  A questionnaire was given to 5288 adults in various workplace venues.  We report on the analysis of two questions on school experiences (participant role; and coping strategies if bullied); and questions on workplace bullying (experiences of being bullied).  We found a significant relationship between reported roles in school bullying, and experience of workplace victimisation. The highest risk of workplace victimisation was for those who were both bullies and victims at school (bully/victims), followed by those who were only victims. Reported coping strategies at school (for victims and bully/victims) were most frequently: trying to avoid the bullying (52%), ignoring (40%), fighting back (34%); getting help from a teacher was only reported by 6%. An analysis of relative risk of workplace bullying, given being a victim at school plus using various coping strategies, revealed an increased risk for the strategies ‘tried to make fun of it’, ‘did not really cope’ and also for ‘fighting back’. Regarding sex differences we found that women are at higher risk of getting bullied at work.  This is the first study to report an association between school and workplace bullying. Victims at school are more at risk of workplace victimisation, but the especial risk for ‘bully/victims’ supports other indications that this particular category of school pupils should be a focus of concern. The findings also suggest that school pupils who consistently cannot cope with bullying, or fight back, or try to make fun of the bullying, are more at risk for later problems in the workplace.


Monks, C., Smith, P.K. and Swettenham*, J.
Goldsmiths College, University of London, London U.K. *University College London, U.K.

We aimed to examine the use, reliability and stability of participant roles in bullying in young children.  The roles taken in bullying were examined using interviews with children in reception/year 1 classes: 19 children aged 4-5 years, then 104 children aged 4-6 years.   The interviews involved the use of a cartoon test depicting 6 participant roles, subsequently refined for use with the larger sample to include 4 roles (Bully, Victim, Defender, Bystander). Reliability for nominations was derived from within-class agreement on roles and stability was examined by test-retest agreement over 1 week and 2 months.  For children as young as 4-6 years, Bully and Victim roles are reliably nominated; however, none of the other 4 Participant Roles identified in 12-13 year olds (Salmivalli et al 1996) and 7-10 year olds (Sutton, Smith & Swettenham 1999), are reliable at this age. The role of the Bully is already rather stable; although at this age the term Bullying may be used in an over-inclusive way, covering general aggression. Victim status is not stable over a 2 month period at this age. This in accord with the findings of Kochenderfer and Ladd (1996) who also report that Victim status is not a stable experience for most children between the ages of 4 and 7 years, although Boulton and Smith (1994) report that it is for many children by middle childhood.  It is suggested that aggressive children try out a variety of targets when entering a new peer group (e.g. starting school) and then limit their aggression to fewer children on the basis of their reactions (Perry et al 1990).  In contrast, Crick, Casas & Ku (1999) report remarkable stability of victimisation in kindergarteners (3-5 years old).  We suggest that these findings may reflect the different methodologies employed by these studies.  We conclude with a proposal for a developmental model for bully/victim relationships in school peer groups.


Fernández, I. and Villaoslada, E.
Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Autonomic University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

School life has become a public concern for both, the scientific and the educational community. Violence, in its different forms, and a wide range of conflicts are present in schools and new approaches are needed to help solving them. When teachers were asked about the main problems they found in their daily work,  a vast majority considered disruption as the most common. The second concern was teacher-student confrontation and bullying came way behind on the teachers’ interest. However, when students are asked the same questions their main concern becomes bullying, followed up by student teacher confrontation. A large number of conflicts at school arise from the disruption that takes place during classes. On the other hand, we know that bullying takes places in the hidden arena of school life and is closely related to daily interaction among students. Knowing that interpersonal relationships are at the heart of most conflicts both for disruption and for bullying incidents, the intervention has to aim towards creating rightful relationships between students and teachers and in between students. The mediation at school proposal applies the formal process of conflict resolution for interpersonal conflicts within the school organization. The intervention which is nowadays taking place in the community of Madrid offers an alternative approach to traditional disciplinary measures in order to solve conflicts at schools. There are seventeen Secondary schools participating in the institutional programme of the CAM. All of these schools receive training on conflict resolution strategies, active listening and the mediation process. School mediators which can be either teachers, students, parents or administrative staff, become a resource for any member of the community willing to receive help in an interpersonal conflict.The mediation strategies allow participation, voice, responsability and non violent solution for the members of the community and specially for students. At the same time, for the school as a whole, it incorporates solidarity and tolerance as an active value and an educational aim to stride for. It allows and demands structural changes in the school organization which  favour and priorize conflict resolution philosophy over more competing, alienating and punitive approaches. 


del Barrio, C., Martín, E., Fernández, I.,  Montero, I. and Gutiérrez, H
Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, Autonomic University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

As an illustration of the alarm climate existing in contemporary societies relating to peer violence in school settings, the Spanish Ombudsman was requested by the Spanish Parliament to present a Report on this subject. The Spanish Commission of UNICEF was consulted and this institution asked for the participation of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid research group working in the European Bullying Project. Data presented refer to the empirical study on the prevalence and features of bullying and social exclusion carried out on a national scale in 300 secondary schools representing all the Spanish administrative communities. A sample of 3000 scholars, half girls half boys was administered an ad hoc questionnaire, and 300 academic counsellors were administered a different one. Aims were: a) identifying the actual incidence of the phenomenon differentiating the many types of aggressive behaviours from the subjects' point of view in their role of victim, aggressor or observer; b) establishing the gender and age profile of the aggressor and the scenarios in which abuses take place; c) to know the reactions of victims and observers, and the role of teachers in detecting and solving the conflict and d) to examine the possible influence of variables such as grade, gender, type of habitat and school, and autonomous community. Results point at the existence of a diversity of bullying acts in every secondary school, taking place in a variety of scenarios depending on the type of behaviour. The level of bullying is lower than in other European countries, especially of the most severe types of maltreatment. However, two particular kinds are intensively mentioned by the Spanish scholars: insulting and social exclusion. The gender difference found in other studies, is confirmed in the Spanish case, showing a phenomenon mostly protagonized by boys, with the exception of the indirect verbal maltreatment, related mostly to girls as victims as well as aggressors, and social exclusion, equally present among girls and boys.

Ombudsman's Report on School Violence (1999) Elaborated by  C. del Barrio, E. Martín, I. Fernández, L. Hierro, I. Montero, E. Ochaíta & H. Gutiérrez, as requested by the Spanish Commission of UNICEF,