Friday 18 October 2019

Fear extends into night - research raises concerns about bullying among boarders

Research: Dr Niamh O'Brien
Research: Dr Niamh O'Brien
Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

Dr Niamh O'Brien, research fellow at the anti-bullying centre at Dublin City University, has studied the effects of bullying in a private school in England.

The Dubliner, who is based at Anglia Ruskin University in Essex, found in her research specific concerns about bullying among boarders.

She carried out her research into a fee-charging school that takes both day pupils and boarders.

"For the day students in the school, they could leave in the afternoon after the school day was over," Dr O'Brien tells Review.

"The boarding students were there in the evening time. For anyone affected by bullying, there was that fear that it would extend into the night-time - maybe when there was less adult supervision and things had gone quiet.

"The day pupils could talk to their parents or their siblings if bullying was happening, but that was not always possible for boarding students."

Dr O'Brien found that boarders could have a greater loyalty to the institution, because generations in the same family might have gone there.

"If they have a problem, they might be fearful to report it because everybody else in their family has been through the school. They worry about what it might mean for their family."

The researcher also found that students might not report bullying because of the financial sacrifice their parents had made to pay the fees.

"They felt that they shouldn't report bullying because they didn't want to let their parents down," says Dr O'Brien (pictured).

She says children need to be encouraged to report incidents if they feel they are unfair or unjust, without thinking they are 'snitches'.

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