Understanding bullying

​​​Bullying is complex. It resists simplistic ideas and solutions.

Knowing exactly what bullying is and understanding why it happens are critical to finding positive and lasting solutions for everyone involved.

Students can play various roles within the bullying dynamic. Understanding the peer group is central to understanding bullying. Some students seem to be more likely to be involved, depending on the school and the broader context. Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term negative impacts on everyone involved, including byst​anders.

Intervening appropriately to respond to or prevent bullying is very important. A good starting place for understanding bullying is to ask students. Their ideas may be different from what adults assume. Dealing with bullying involves tapping into their motivations and understandings of the social situation. The reasons for bullying will be found below the surface by investigating issues of power, norms and social status, tolerance and diversity. ​Exploring these areas and how they influence students' interactions and behaviour can provide essential insights into the most appropriate responses by parents and carers, and the school.

NEW! Watch Professor Donna Cross's presentation What is harm from bullying is a hoax and we create a better world for nothing. Professor Donna Cross explores the research about 'what works' to prevent bullying, and discusses practical ways schools can engage with students in building safe and supportive school environments. (The presentation is provided in four parts totalling 55 minutes).

Read more on the research into bullying and implications for schools, as well as updates from new research. When you are reading research about bullying, you may find What to look for in research useful so you can ensure the research is of a high quality and the findings are valid.


Literature review and snapshots