There is no universal accepted definition of bullying. Olweus (1993) defines bullying as repeated, aggressive behaviour involving a power imbalance between the bully (perpetrator) and the intended bully victim (Olweus and Limber, 2010). Rigby (2010) defines bullying as a systematic and repeated abuse of power and identifies three aspects to bullying: 1) a desire to hurt/dominate; 2) an imbalance of power involving unfair action favouring the perpetrator and 3) the target of the action lacks appropriate defence therefore feeling oppressed and humiliated.

Does behaviour have to be repeated behaviour to be considered bullying?

Generally bullying does consist of repeated encounters between the targeted person and the bully. However, this is not always the case. From the targeted person’s perspective, the effect from a single event can be just as damaging.

What is not bullying?

  • Disagreements/arguments/aggression with no imbalance of power.
  • Not liking someone.
  • Hazing — “acting on behalf of a privileged group to systematically embarrass, humiliate, or degrade someone as a necessary precondition to their acceptance as a member of a group” (Rigby, 2008).

Is teasing the same as bullying?

No. To draw a defining line between the terms teasing and taunting; teasing is done in fun, has no intention to hurt, is to give both parties some enjoyment and ceases if one person objects or becomes upset. Bullying involves taunting, which is one sided with intent to hurt and continues even if the other person is hurt or upset (Coloroso, 2003).
Is all bullying intentional?

A child may not realise their behaviour or words may hurt or upset another child. Once the child is made aware of the effect and ceases the behaviour/words, this is referred to as non-malign bullying (Rigby, 2008).

Why is bullying prevalent in schools?

  • Schools provide a physical place where children can congregate with opportunities of no adult supervision (Olweus, 1991).
  • Schools also provide a collective space containing a wide variance in the differences (size, intellect, verbal skills, physical strength etc.,) between children.

Types of Bullying

Physical bullying: Where a person or group uses physical actions e.g.: hitting, poking and pushing, etc. This is usually the least common form of bullying and declines with age (Rigby and Slee, 1999; A.C.B.P.S.,2009).

Verbal bullying: Using systematic name calling, insults, racist remarks, etc. Name calling is generally the most common form of bullying (Rigby and Slee, 1999).

Covert bullying: Any form of aggressive behaviour that is repeated, intended to cause harm, characterised by an imbalance of power and is hidden, out of sight or unacknowledged by adults (A.C.B.P.S., 2009). As students get older, they tend to engage in more covert bullying over overt bullying behaviour (A.C.B.P.S., 2009).

Social and relational bullying: Lying about someone, spreading rumours, excluding someone, mimicking someone, etc.

Psychological bullying: Threatening, manipulating, stalking someone.

Cyber bullying: Using emails, mobile phones, social networking sites etc, to verbally, covertly, psychologically bully.

How often does bullying behaviour occur?

  • Approximately once a week for one in six children aged between 7 and 17 years of age (Rigby, 1997).
  • General bullying (no specified type) is the highest (32%) among Year 5 students and (29%) among Year 8 students (A.C.B.P.S., 2009).
  • There has not been any reported Australian statistics on bullying on children younger than 7 years of age. However based on overseas studies; it is estimated that 18% of kindergarten children are victims of aggressive behaviour. (Kochenderfer and Ladd, 1996).
  • Covert bullying is the highest among Year 4 and Year 8 students with hurtful teasing the most prevalent. Covert bullying tends to start in late primary school for girls and early secondary school for boys. Girls more so than boys, tend to engage in covert bullying. Covert bullying tends to occur usually between same genders (A.C.B.P.S., 2009).
  • Cyber bullying occurs more through social networking sites than mobile phones. Older students engage in more cyber bullying than younger students. Students from non-government schools tend to engage more in cyber bullying than government school students (A.C.B.P.S., 2009).

Harassing Bullying out of Existence

Bullying has been referred to as a ‘silent epidemic’ (McGrath, 2006). This is even more accurate with cyber bullying. Bullying not only has emotional costs for the student, it also has a financial cost to the school in terms of counselling and time taken to pursue the matter with students, parents and others.


It is vital that teachers intervene in bullying situations — students look to teachers for guidance. This is particularly so for middle school children (Crothers, Kolbert and Barker, 2006). In seeking clarification of self identity all children eventually merge from beyond the realms of the family to seeking guidance from peers and teachers.

There are a number of different intervention methods currently being implemented to address bullying behaviour. No one method or model has a 100% success rate. As schools and students are different, likewise bullying and methods used to deal with bullying are also different. Rigby (2008) discusses five different intervention methods from which a number of programs have been developed.

1. Rules and Consequences Method. This approach has set prescribed rules and consequences for bullying therefore it does not cater for the individualistic nature of the incident, nor does it really support the targeted student or assist the bully.

2. Restorative Justice Method. This approach involves the key players. This includes the bully, the targeted student and parents coming together in a meeting to reinforce the idea that bullying behaviour is wrong. Instead of the straight punitive approach as in Rules and Consequences, this approach supports both the bully and the targeted student with the aim to rehabilitate and to reintegrate the bully back into successful healthy relationships.

3. No Blame Approach Method. This is more of a problem solving approach which empowers students. The bully and selected other students who are sympathetic to the targeted student are informed of the plight of the targeted student. The group is then encouraged to find ways of solving the problem.

4. Method of Shared Concern. This is a multi staged approach which commences with indirectly gathering information about the incident, followed by interviewing the suspected bully, then interviewing the targeted student and finally interviewing other students to culminate in a meeting with all relevant parties to arrive at an agreed solution.

5. Mediation Method. This approach attempts to take a neutral stance towards the problem of bullying with the focus on resolution without punishment. The mediator, usually the teacher, brings the two parties (bully and the targeted student) together seeking mediation.

Common to all methods is the need to bring bullying out of the silent world in which it thrives. There is a need to support the targeted student not only during the intervention but also ensuring the student is supported after the intervention to monitor any potential payback for the victim. Equally so, support is needed for the bully to allow opportunity for him/her to recognise their own behaviour and change it accordingly.

Imbalance of power in relationships is not restricted to bullying relationships in children. Power imbalances occur in adult relationships too. It is not necessarily the power that is the problem, it is the behaviour. Behaviour needs to change for the bully, the victim and the bystanders to help encourage future healthy adult relationships and behaviours.

Source: BullyEd Anti-Bullying Program