One-in-four girls physically attacked by primary bullies
ONE-in-four girls attending primary school has been subjected to a physical attack by bullies in the previous three months, research reveals.
The newly published study by a Trinity College academic found that girls were slightly more likely to suffer physical violence in primary school rather than post-primary.
But boys remained more likely again to be kicked or punched by bullies in school, with one-in-three being struck in the previous three months.
Just over 7pc of boys in both primary and post-primary schools -- more than one-in-15 -- were physically hurt either once a week or once a day.
The report will cause alarm among pupils as 800,000 of them begin returning to school.
Of more than 5,500 pupils surveyed, it was also found that a quarter of girls in post-primary schools have had lies told or rumours spread about them.
The study confirmed earlier findings that bullying is widespread in Irish schools -- over a third of pupils have either been bullied themselves or have bullied others.
Girls are more likely to be subjected to indirect forms of aggressive behaviour such as being excluded, ignored, or having lies or rumours spread about them, while boys are more likely to suffer from direct aggressive behaviour.
Many victims are frightened into silence and are afraid to tell their parents, the survey found.
The report warned that bullying behaviour can, and often does, destroy a person's confidence and self-esteem and cause physical, emotional and psychological damage of the potentially more serious and long-lasting kind.
The study was carried out by Dr Stephen James Minton of the TCD School of Education from 2004-2005, but has only now been released in the journal 'Irish Educational Studies'.
Dr Minton, who is attached to the Anti-Bullying Centre, told the Irish Independent that the only change since his study was that cyber-bullying, especially through text messages, had become much worse.
Although schools are obliged to have anti-bullying policies, he said that inroads into preventing and dealing with bullying and behaviour can best be made through Government-supported nationwide intervention programmes.
His study confirmed gender differences in the types of bullying experienced. Boys are more likely to have been subjected to direct forms of aggressive physical and verbal threats, having their possessions or money taken away or their possessions deliberately damaged.
In primary schools, 28pc of boys said they were kicked now and again, while 4.5pc said it happened about once a week and 3.1pc said it occurred about once a day.
Almost a third of primary school boys were called nasty names, made fun of or teased during the previous three months. A further 6.5pc said this happened once a week and 7.3pc said it happened about once a day. The figures for post-primary boys were a little lower.
Some 10pc of primary school boys had their belongings or money stolen in the previous three months, while 2.7pc said it happened once a week or on a daily basis. The figures were higher for boys in post-primary schools.
At primary level, 19.1pc of girls said they had been physically hurt in the previous three months, with 3.1pc saying it happened once a week or on a daily basis. The figures were slightly lower for girls at post-primary level.
Girls were more likely than boys to have been left out, excluded or ignored -- 34.1pc versus 26.4pc at the primary level and 28.8pc versus 18.2pc at the post-primary level.
However, slightly fewer girls than boys were called nasty names, made fun of or teased.
The study showed overall that 35.3pc of primary students and 36.4pc of post-primary students had been involved in bullying/victim problems over the previous three months.
At primary level, one-in-five pupils were victims of bullying, one-in-20 admitted bullying others, and 7.3pc were both bullied and bullies. The rates were higher for boys than girls.
The Irish National Teachers' Organisation welcomed the study, saying bullying must be faced up to and dealt with by everyone.
"Every school year thousands of teacher hours are spent investigating allegations, monitoring particular situations, following up on cases and meeting with parents and pupils," a spokesperson said.
An editorial in 'Irish Educational Studies' said the implications of the study were potentially significant for educational policy as it goes beyond bullying/victim problems to a wider focus on aggressive behaviour.