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Bullying and Self-injury

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1 Bullying and Self-injury
What have we found so far? Emma Brown and the Youth Wellbeing Study Hi everyone. I’m in the last year of my PhD (hopefully!) so today, I’m going to talk very briefly on some of the findings from our Time 1 data. My PhD is focused on bullying, emotion regulation skills, and self-injury and I’m just going to pick some of the findings around bullying for today’s presentation. So, what have we found so far?

2 How common is bullying? Nonvictim (61%)
This graph presents the prevalence rates for the frequency of bullying behaviours using the Time 1 sample. Almost two thirds of our sample (61%) reported having not experienced bullying in the past 2-12 months. I want to highlight this statistic from the outset because it reminds us firstly that the majority of our young people are not being bullied. Of those who had experienced bullying in the past 12 months, almost 27% reported being bullied once or twice, 6% once a week, about 2.5% several times a week and 3% most days. This is consistent with other New Zealand studies finding that between 27% and 75% of young people experience traditional bullying at some point. Some research has focused on the best way to group individuals based on the frequency of bullying in a way that doesn’t inflate bullying statistics by overincluding students or misrepresent by underincluding students. Based on this research, I chose to group our data into 3 groups: firstly, a nonvictim group or uninvolved. Of those who had experienced victimisation, almost 27% reported being bullied occasionally (i.e. once or twice) and 12% reported being bullied frequently (i.e. once a week or more in the past 12 months). Just over a fifth of the sample (around 22%) reported that they had had bullied another student at least once in the past 12 months and 2.5% reported engaging in bullying behaviours once a week or more. So once again, the majority of the students did not report engaging in bullying behaviours.

3 How common is bullying? This graph separates the frequency of bullying in schools by sex. What we found was that there were no significant differences between male and female students regarding the frequency of victimisation. This is also consistent with international research finding no differences. There were also no differences found whether males and females report being an non-victim, an occasional victim or a frequent victim.

4 What types of bullying? This graph presents the prevalence rates for the different types of bullying behaviours in the Time 1 sample. We found that our data fits nicely into the four forms of bullying that have been identified in previous research: physical, relational, verbal and cyber. Regarding victimisation, participants most commonly reported verbal bullying (being teased and called names) (about 28%), followed by relational bullying (being left out of things) (about 23%), then physical bullying (threatened or hit/kicked) (about 8%) and then cyberbullying (through text, social media, ) (about 2%). Once again, these percentages are similar to rates that have been found in other samples.

5 What types of bullying? When examining whether there are any gender differences, again our findings closely match what other studies have found. Female students reported higher rates of relational bullying and cyberbullying, while males reported higher rates of physical bullying. Both genders were just as likely to report verbal bullying. For bullying offending, male participants reporting higher rates of bullying others at school and online compared to females.

6 How bad is the bullying? Across the different forms of traditional and cyberbullying, participants were asked how bad the bullying behaviour was when it happens; 25% reported it was not bad, about 40% reported it was a little bad, 25% reported it was pretty bad, 5% reported it was really bad, and 3.5% reported it was terrible. Again, what this shows is that even while being bullied, there is a diversity in reactions to the experience. The finding that about two thirds of the students being bullied were reporting it was not bad or a little bad is encouraging and suggests that for some individuals, being bullied does not seem to greatly impact them. However, about a third of the students indicated that their experiences were pretty bad and that the bullying was having a negative effect for them. Among these students were those who were frequently victimised. This group reported that the bullying behaviour was more severe when it happened more often compared to those who were occasionally victimised or those who were not victimised. 13.5% of participants had not gone to school once or more than once in the previous month because they were afraid that someone might bully them; this was more likely for female students than males.

7 Why were they bullied? Students were also asked what was or were the reasons that they thought they were bullied. Students most commonly reported that they did not know why they were bullied (71%), followed by being bullied for another reason (55%)  (these include jealousy, bullies trying to act tough, they didn’t like me), being bullied because of their size or body shape (almost 50%), or because they work hard at school (35%).

8 Why were they bullied? When looking for sex differences, ,male students attributed being bullied because of their religion, because they were gay or people thought they were gay and because they were smaller than other people more than females.

9 Bullying groups and wellbeing outcomes
Research has also suggested that the impact of the negative effects of bullying might depend on the frequency of both perpetration of bullying behaviours and victimisation, which may not come as a surprise. I wanted to see whether there were certain profiles of students based on their experiences of bullying behaviours. To do this, participants were clustered based on how often they had been victimised and how often they had bullied others. I put all the data into a clever statistical program and 5 profiles magically appeared! Cluster 1 was labelled as “Serious victims” and was about 6% of the sample. This group was characterised by high levels of bullying (on average, reported being bullied in school “several times a week” or “most days”) and low levels of bullying others. Cluster 2 we labelled as “Low-Moderate victims” representing 23% of the sample and was characterised by low-moderate levels of victimisation (once or twice) and low levels of bullying others. Cluster 3 was labelled as “Bullies only” and was made up of 19% of the sample. This group showed low-moderate levels of bullying others (once or twice in previous 12 months) and were not victimised. Cluster 4 was the majority of the sample (41%) and was labelled as “Neither” due to low levels of victimisation and bullying others. Lastly Cluster 5 was labelled as “Moderate bully-victims” (11%) and was characterised by moderate levels of victimisation (around once or twice) and moderate levels of bullying others. The victimisation in this group is labelled as moderate because it was not as frequent as the serious victims group, it was more similar to the Low-Moderate Victim group only group.

10 Bullying groups and wellbeing outcomes
Then what I did was to see whether these different profiles of students differed on other psychological wellbeing outcomes, and I found that they did. Broadly, serious victims and moderate bully-victims showed the most difficulty, bullies and those uninvolved showed the least, and the Low-Moderate victims group sat in the middle. As you will see, serious victims of bullying is the most vulnerable group overall for poorer wellbeing outcomes. However, victimisation of any kind appeared to have a detrimental effect on all wellbeing outcomes and functioning, which is not really new to us. Of particular interest to me is the moderate bully-victims group, which appears to be the second most vulnerable group of students, and is not too different from the serious victims group, despite having less frequent victimisation than the serious victims. Serious victims and bully-victims reported the most self-injury and suicidal ideation and behaviour, and this was for both males and females within these groups. However, females in all clusters did report more self-injury and suicidal ideation than males overall.

11 Bullying groups and wellbeing outcomes
Again, as would be expected, higher depression and anxiety scores were found in those groups experiencing bullying behaviours, particularly for serious victims and bully-victims again. Both males and females who report more bullying were more vulnerable depression and anxiety, however females again reported more than males across the profiles.

12 Bullying groups and wellbeing outcomes
For emotion regulation, serious victims and bully-victims had the lowest emotion regulation scores, again with females scoring lower than males across profiles. The bully-victim group showed the lowest resilience overall, however particularly for females, being bullied across profiles was associated with less resiliency. An interesting finding was that males in the bully-victim group were less resilient than males in the other groups, but overall, despite being bullies, males showed relatively high resiliency. This suggests that being bullied might have more of an effect on resiliency for females than males. Again, those in the serious victims and bully-victim groups reported less attachment to peers. When looking at gender differences, females were the most vulnerable overall. However for males, it was the bully-victim group who felt less attached to peers. For self-esteem, victimisation of any kind was related to lower levels of self-esteem however as you can see in the graph, it doesn’t appear as noticeable as some of the other wellbeing outcomes we’ve looked at.

13 Bullying and School Serious victims School less important
Disliked school Did not feel like a part of their school Felt less safe at school More likely to ignore bullying of other students Felt that other students ignored bullying Felt that teachers did not take action against bullying So we know that more serious victimisation is associated with negative wellbeing outcomes in young people, including self-injury. Research also tells us that victimisation is related to poor academic performance and less attachment to school. This was consistent with our findings, particularly for serious victims who reported that school was less important to them, that they disliked school, that they felt they were not a part of their school and that they felt less safe at school. When asked about bullying behaviours in the school content, serious victims were most likely to ignore bullying of other students and not take action. This group also reported that other students and teachers did not take action against bullying compared to the other groups. However, research has also found that the negative effects of bullying on academic performance and attachment to school are lessened when a student has the social support of peers and teachers.

14 Successful Bullying Program Characteristics
Social-ecological perspective model of bullying prevention programs. Hazler, R.J & Carney, J.V. In Handbook of School Violence & School Safety – International Research & Practice (2nd ed). Edited by Mayer, M.J & Furlong, M.J. So what can we do? Although there isn’t a lot of agreement about which anti-bullying program is the best, there is evidence for effective components of bullying programs. The basic premise is that targeting these individual components alone may be successful to some extent, but the effectiveness of these components is maximised when they are collectively used. At the top we have a social-ecological perspective, which means to not look at an individual alone without considering the context around them. Effective programs recognise that bullying prevention needs to focus and attend to individuals, peers, schools, families, and communities to bring change. The larger the group that is successfully integrated into prevention efforts, the better. At the centre of these components is reducing isolation, which is based around the concept that bullies are not seeking a fair fight, but an interaction where they can dominate an individual or group. This highlights the importance of positive social connections and fighting isolation as a group, not just the victim alone. Bullying can only continue when adults or peers who could make a difference are not present or when they choose not to become involved in support of victims. Awareness building is around helping students see and feel the problem’s impact by promoting information in a way that personally connects with youth to promote empathic awareness of the effects of bullying. Policy development is about creating agreed upon values and rules of behaviour that support anti-bullying and related activities. Skill development is for everyone, not just bullies and victims. None of the skills are exclusive to dealing with bullying alone but as a way to promote healthy individuals. The social-emotional learning approach is about helping youth become self-aware, manage their emotions, build social skills (through empathy training, perspective-taking, respecting diversity), build friendship skills, and making positive decisions. Social-emotional learning has also been linked to academic performance, and some researchers have suggested that if students can better control their feelings, thoughts and actions, academic learning is optimised and bullying is reduced. Ongoing action is about providing a regular time for discussion about the school’s climate, positive changes, problems, what needs to be done. Assessment, Adjustment and Recycling is about evaluating progress, and identifying changes needed.

15 Experiential Avoidance Model (EAM)
I know I’ve talked a lot about bullying and not much about self-injury, but part of my PhD is to try and get a bit more of an understanding of how bullying is related to self-injury. The model that you see on the screen is called the Experiential Avoidance Model by Chapman and colleagues. Put simply, the EAM suggests is that there is a stimulus that causes people to experience an unwanted negative emotional response (e.g. anger or sadness) that they are unable to manage or tolerate. Research suggests that people who self-injure experience their emotions more intensely and have several emotion regulation skill deficits which make them more likely to use avoidance behaviours to escape negative emotions. Self-injury provides a temporary relief or escape from negative emotions, and eventually through reinforcement becomes a more automatic, conditioned response to emotional arousal. Being bullied can be viewed as one of the stressors that causes an emotional response, potentially setting off the chain of events that result in intense emotional expressions, avoidance, and engagement in self-injury. In combination, a stressor like being bullied and having difficulties with emotions increase the risk of engaging in self-injury as a coping mechanism The Experiential Avoidance Model. Reproduced from ‚ Solving the puzzle of deliberate self-harm: The experiential avoidance model,‛ by A.L. Chapman et al., 2006, Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, p. 373.

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