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S-7.-Bullying behaviour among prisioners: recent research and implications for intervention


Ireland, Jane
HMYOI Lancaster Farms and Psychology Department, University of Central Lancashire, UK.

Symposium Abstract

The symposium outlines recent research that has been conducted, or is in the process of being conducted into bullying behaviour among prisoners.  The aim of the symposium is to describe the extent of research into this area and to highlight any recurrent themes between them.  The papers are diverse in nature and address bullying behaviours among male, female, adult and young offenders.  A number of areas are explored such as social problem solving (notably solving conflict situations involving bullying), attitudes towards victims\bullies, attitudes towards the self and the prison system and adjustment to prison.  Also described is a longitudinal study addressing bullying among young male offenders.  All papers are discussed with reference to implications for intervention into this specific form of aggressive behaviour.

S-7.1.-Descriptive analysis of the nature and extent of bullying behavior in a maximum-security prison

Ireland, C.A. and Ireland*, J.L.
HMP Wymott and Psychology Department, University of Central Lancashire, UK.
*HMYOI Lancaster Farms and Psychology Department, University of Central Lancashire, UK.

This aim of the study was to investigate the nature and extent of bullying behaviour in a maximum-security prison, and to assess prisoners' attitudes towards the victims of bullying. 194 adult male prisoners completed the Direct and Indirect Prisoner Behavior Checklist (DIPC©: Ireland, 1998, Ireland, 1999) and a modified version of the Rigby and Slee (1991) pro-victim scale.  Four distinct groups of prisoners were described: those who solely reported behaviours indicative of bullying others, ‘pure bullies’, those who solely reported behaviours indicative of being bullied, ‘pure victims’, those who reported behaviours indicative of being bullied and bullying others, ‘bully/victims’, and those who reported no such behaviours, ‘not-involved’ group.  The results showed that over half of the prisoners sampled had been bullied in the previous week. Only a small number of prisoners could be classified as either a pure bully or a pure victim, with almost half classified as bully/victims. The most frequent types of bullying used were psychological/verbal and indirect. No significant differences were observed between pure bullies, bully/victims, pure victims and the not involved groups' attitudes towards the victims of bullying or the bullies themselves.  The findings hold implications for the development of anti-bullying programs. Such programs should consider the prevalence of indirect forms of bullying, and that a prisoner can be both a bully and a victim. The paper also makes reference to the development of ‘focus groups’ as an intervention into bullying behaviour.

S-7.2.-The role of social problem solving in bullying behaviour among male and female adult prisoners

Ireland, J.L.
HMYOI Lancaster Farms and Psychology Department, University of Central Lancashire, UK.

The association between social problem solving and bullying among adult male and female prisoners is presented.  406 prisoners (210 males and 196 females) were categorised into four groups: pure bullies, pure victims, bully/victims and those not involved in bullying behaviour using a self-report behaviour checklist.  Prisoners completed a questionnaire that presented them with 5 different bullying scenarios.  The scenarios described indirect-physical, verbal, sexual, theft-related and indirect incidents of bullying.  Prisoners were asked to suggest a ‘best’ and a ‘second-best’ way of dealing with each scenario.  Responses were classified as aggressive, non-aggressive or ambiguous.  It was predicted that those involved in bullying behaviour would produce fewer solutions to the conflict stories than those not involved in bullying, and that bullies and bully/victims would report more aggressive than non-aggressive solutions than the other groups.  It was also predicted that bullies and bully/victims would be more likely to choose an aggressive response as their first choice than the other groups, who would opt for non-aggressive solutions.  Gender differences were also predicted.  The results showed that female bully/victims produced significantly more solutions in response to theft-related bullying than male bully/victims.  There were no further significant group or gender differences observed in the number of solutions generated.  The bully group favoured aggressive responses for all scenarios.  Males reported more aggressive responses than females.  The results are discussed with reference to the environment in which the social problem solving is taking place, and the implications of the findings for bullying intervention programmes.

S-7.3.-A review of research literature in bullying among prisoners: experiences and lessons to learn

Tahir, M.H.
Psychology Department, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.

Bullying is an important issue in today's society. Research has addressed its prevalence in schools, workplaces, the armed forces and prisons. The majority of research has focused on the school environment, with research into the bullying that occurs within prisons limited. The nature and prevalence of bullying in prison is of interest, with such environments acting to encourage this type of behaviour. The present paper recapitulates and abridges the research and literature in bullying among prisoners unveiling the current status, highlighting areas that have been missing and making a number of suggestions for future research. In the light of suggested directions for future research the present paper describes a project currently being undertaken that investigates the problem of bullying among Pakistani prisoners. Four different provinces of Pakistan (to broaden the spectrum of prison bullying research) are addressed in the research. The aim of the study is to explore the effects of being bullied or bullying others on a randomly selected sample of adult men and women prisoners (age group 21-45 years). The sample includes those who are married and unmarried, those coming from all different socio-economic classes and with all levels of religious practices. Those who are staying in prisons for more than six months, and serving for a range of offence types are also included. Prisoners were asked to complete measures addressing custodial attitudes, namely (I) attitude towards self, (II) attitude towards other prisoners and (III) attitude towards institutions. The study is being carried out in two parts: one pilot study consisting of approximately 60 prisoners, and the main study consisting of approximately 500 prisoners. This study is being conducted using a modified version of the Direct and Indirect Prison Behaviour Checklist (DIPC © Ireland, 1998) and the Rehabilitation in Correctional Settings Scale (RICS, © Rice, 1970).

S-7.4.-A longitudinal study of young offender’ conduct and experiences in prison

Beck, G. and Smith, P.K.
HMP Lancaster and Psychology Department, Goldsmiths College, University of London, UK.

The present paper describes a longitudinal study into bullying among young male offenders.  Bullying represents an abusive behaviour based on a relationship which extends over a period of time.  How individuals evolve during this relationship has not been investigated, although researchers have suggested that prisoners develop into bullies as their experience of prison life increases.  To date there have been no longitudinal studies into bullying behaviour within a prison environment.  The present study attempts to address this by examining the self-reported bullying behaviour of offenders from the day that they were first received into the prison up to the first eight months of their imprisonment.  Prisoners were asked to completed behavioural checklists on a weekly basis.  Hypotheses included: 1.) bullying behaviour increases over time in prison, 2.) previous experience predicts ‘bullying others’ and ‘being bullied’ and 3.) there is no clear distinction between the bully and the victim group.  The study is not yet completed but preliminary examination of the data shows a moderate relationship between reporting being a bully and reporting being victimised, and between bullying and both previous prison experience and previous convictions. Those who had previously been in care reported engaging in more bullying behaviours.  The most frequently reported form of abuse was verbal abuse, which increased over the first 10 weeks of a prisoner’s imprisonment (this was the case for both ‘bullying others’ and ‘being bullied’).  Other forms of bullying were less common and there is less evidence of them showing an increase over time.  The initial results provide tentative support for the hypotheses: victimisation does appear to increase over time, particularly verbal victimisation, and bullying behaviour is moderately related to previous experience with prison.  The moderate relationship between bully and victim items suggests there is no clear distinction between this group, and that those who bully may also be victims.  The results are discussed with reference to implications for intervention.