Being friends with a bully: Friendship, aggression and the peer group

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


Peer relations can contribute to children’s development in positive and negative ways. Whilst bullying is generally positioned as undesirable, there is inconsistency in the literature about whether being involved in bullying affects children’s popularity and quality of friendships in the peer group.
There is also evidence that children tend to associate with peers who assume similar roles to them in bullying situations.
Primary school children aged 7-11 from four schools (n=286) completed a questionnaire as part of an in-class exercise. Measures included friendship and best friendship nominations, the Friendship Quality Scale (Bukowski et al, 1994) about their best friend, and a peer nomination measure for bully, assistant, defender, victim and bystanders in their class.
Children identified as aggressors did not differ in number of friendships or reciprocal friendship nominations compared to non-aggressors. Friendship quality was different between best friends, with higher levels of help and conflict reported by aggressors. Friends of aggressors were more likely to be assistants or defenders in the peer group. Within-friendship aggression was uncommon,
and children did not aggress towards their best friends.
The study shows that children identified as aggressors in the peer group are not more disliked, do not have fewer friends and do not have poorer quality friendships. This illustrates that bullying behaviour is not necessarily rejected by peers and may bring social benefits for children.
Implications for bullying intervention focusing on the peer group, and shifting the social consequences associated with bullying behaviour will be discussed.
Period4 Jun 2019
Event titleWorld Anti-Bullying Forum
Event typeConference
LocationDublin, IrelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational