Bullying and friendships during middle childhood

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


Group dynamics have been identified as being relevant to bullying during middle childhood; with research noting that children tend to associate with others who are similar to them in their behaviours within bullying scenarios. Research examining the friendships of children who are identified as bullying others has produced some inconsistent findings. The current study examined children’s friendships and friendship quality in relation to their involvement in bullying.
Children aged 7-11 years were recruited from four schools (N=314; 52.5% female) to participate. Children were asked to report on their friendships in school, including nominating friends and best friends and reporting on best friendship quality (Friendship Quality Scale, Bukowski et al, 1994). Pupils were also asked to provide peer nominations for bully, assistant, defender, victim
and bystander (based on descriptions by Salmivalli, 1996). Bullies did not receive significantly fewer friendship nominations from peers. Nor were their friendships less likely to be reciprocated, indicating that bullies were just as likely to have mutual friendships as non-bullies. However, when looking at the quality of bullies’ best friendships, it was found that they reported these as being higher in levels of help and higher in levels of conflict. As predicted, bullies were more likely to be in friendships with other aggressive children, but were also found to be friends with defenders. Although within-friendship bullying was reported within the sample, this was uncommon and children did not tend to behave aggressively towards best friends. These findings suggest that during middle childhood, bullies are not socially isolated. Bullies have reciprocated friendships
that are often with other aggressive children, but are also with prosocial individuals (defenders). Although bullies reported higher levels of conflict in their friendships, actual bullying behaviour within friendships was uncommon. The nature of bullies’ friendships and potential these have for supporting further bullying is explored. Implications for bullying intervention focusing on the peer group will be discussed.
Period30 Aug 2019
Event title19th European Conference for Developmental Psychology
Event typeConference
LocationAthens, GreeceShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational