European Journal of Psychology of Education

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 249–261 | Cite as

Pupils’ definitions of bullying

  • Suzanne Guerin
  • Eilis Hennessy


Although there has been a growing interest in research on bullying in the last decade the majority of studies have used definitions of bullying and victimisation derived from researchers’ perceptions of the problem. The aim of the present study was to examine pupils’ definitions of bullying in school. The participants were 166 pupils in the top two years in five primary schools in Ireland (two in urban areas and three in rural areas). There were 89 male and 77 female participants, with a modal age of 12 years. An interview was designed to elicit pupils’ perceptions of the defining characteristics of bullying behaviour including (I) the behaviours described as bullying, (II) the importance of repetition, (III) the importance of intention, (IV) the effect on the victim, (V) the role of provocation and (VI) imbalance of power. The results suggest that repetition, intention, and a lack of provocation may not be central to pupils’ definitions of bullying. These results indicate some differences between pupils and researchers on what constitutes the most important defining characteristics of bullying. This suggests that approaches to bullying intervention programmes may need to be reconsidered in light of these findings.

Key words

Bullying Children’s views Definition 


Bien qu’il y eu un intérêt croissant dans la recherche sur le “bullying” dans les dix dernières années, la majorité des études ont utilisé des définitions de bullying et de s’anarcher en permanence sur une même personne, dérivent sur la perception du problème par les personnes menant cette recherche. Les études menées actuellement visent à comparer la définition de bullying dans le milieu scolaire à ceux utilisées dans la recherche. Le projet était de faire participer 166 élèves des deux dernières années de l’école primaire parmis 5 écoles irlandaises (deux dans les mileux urbains et trois dans les milieux ruraux). Un total de 89 garçons et 77 filles y ont participés avec une moyenne d’age de 12 ans. Un entretien a été élaboré pour obtenir la perception des élèves sur les caractéristiques de la définition de bullying comportant (1) les atitudes qui définissent le bullying, (2) l’importance de l’attention dirigé par le bullying, (3) l’importance de la répétivité, (4) le rôle du provocateur et (5) l’inégalité de pouvoir influer sur les autres et la conséquence des effects négatifs. Les résultat suggèrent que la répétition, l’intention et la non-provocation ne soient pas communs à la définition que se font les éléves du bullying. Les résultats montrent des différences entre la définition que se font les élèves et les chercheurs sur ce qui constitue les caractéristiques les plus importantes de la définition de bullying. Cela suggère que les programmes de luttes contre le bullying devrait être revu à la lumière de ces découvertes.


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisbon, Portugal/Springer Netherlands 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne Guerin
    • 1
  • Eilis Hennessy
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of PsychologyUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland

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