The experience of bullying – A study of 12 to 13 year olds in Australia

The experience of being bullied in childhood and adolescence has far-reaching social, emotional, educational and health consequences.  In a recent study,  led by Professor Anne Kavanagh from the CRE-DH, we compared the prevalence of bullying victimization between adolescents with and without a disability, and between adolescents with and without borderline intellectual functioning or intellectual disability (BIF/ID).  We also sought to assess whether the relationships between either disability or BIF/ID, and bullying victimisation vary by gender and parental education.

We used a sample of 3,956 12-13 year olds who participated in Wave 5 of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), and looked at experiences of social, physical and any bullying victimisation. 

Social bullying victimisation includes peers trying to prevent others from being their friend and not letting them join in activities; physical bullying victimisation includes pushing, shoving, hitting and kicking; while ‘any’ bullying victimisation includes either physical or social victimisation. 

We found that adolescents with disabilities and BIF/ID have a higher risk of social bullying than those with no disability. 

Among those adolescents from families with low parental education, adolescents with disabilities were 51% more likely to report experiencing bullying than adolescents without disabilities. Girls with BIF/ID were at 28% increased risk of experiencing ‘any bullying victimisation’ compared to girls without. 

School-based anti-bullying initiatives should concentrate on enhancing the inclusion of adolescents with disabilities, with an emphasis on adolescents form disadvantaged backgrounds.

This summary is based on the following paper: 

Kavanagh AM, Priest N, Emerson E, Milner A & King T. Gender, parental education and experiences of bullying victimization by Australian adolescents with and without a disabilityChild Care Health Dev. 2018; 1-10.