Thesis Database

We have developed the following database of research theses on bullying from all academic institutions in the UK and Ireland. The aim of this database is to assist those who are interested in the field of bullying and want to see what research has already been done. We have attempted to ensure that we have included all relevant theses here; but if there is an omission please let us know by emailing

The database is here for information purposes. Those who want access to the texts of the theses need to contact the author, the relevant institution, or both.

The social and interpersonal experiences of people with obsessive-compulsive disorder: an exploratory study
O’Connor, J.
Trinity College Dublin

Method:  18 adults, aged between 19 and 56 years, completed a set of questionnaires as well as a semi-structured interview examining various aspects of the participants’ social and interpersonal experience: Semi-Structured Interview, the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsiveness Scale (Y-BOS), the Maudsley Obsessive Compulsive Inventory (MOCI), The Inventory of Interpersonal Problems (IIP), The Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory 3rd Edition (MCMI-III), the Relationship Scales Questionnaire (RSQ), the Multi-Item Measure of Romantic Attachment (MIMRI). Results:  Evidence of high rates of fearful attachment styles among participants was noted from the RSQ and the MIMRA, as well as significant interpersonal difficulties among half the participants from the IIP was gathered. A pattern of significantly elevated mean scores on a number of dimensions from the MCMI-III (including those related to the ‘dependent personality pattern’ and ‘anxiety disorder’) was recorded. Data from semi-structured interviews provide evidence of high levels of family disturbance, parental mental illness, and parental conflict in the participants’ childhood experience as well as high levels of bullying in school. Discussion:  The discussion examines the significance of these findings and their implications for clinical practice. A tentative interpersonal model is proposed derived from the findings of this study. The findings are considered in relation to the interpersonal model and suggestions are made around changes to this model that allow the impact of certain kinds of experiences on the development of rituals and ruminations to be understood. A number of limitations in the present study relating to sampling procedures, use of specific questionnaires to assess interpersonal functioning and perception are also outlined and recommendations for future lines of research relating to the interpersonal experience of people with OCD put forward.

The components, construction and correlates of quality of school life in secondary education. (BL: DXN044510)
Karatzias, A.
University of Stirling

Results indicated that the new Q.S.L. scale has good psychometric qualities both in the Scottish and the Greek sample, although such qualities need to be investigated further. Personality factors were found to be the best predictors of Q.S.L. in two studies. In the study regarding the correlates of Q.S.L., it was found that school self – esteem was the best predictor of Q.S.L., whereas in the cross – cultural study between Scotland and Greece it was found that, for both Scottish and Greek samples, positive affectivity was the best predictor of Q.S.L. However, both Greek and Scottish samples in the cross – cultural study consisted of 4th or 6th graders, whereas the sample in the study regarding the correlates of Q.S.L. (Scottish only) consisted of 1st to 6th grade secondary school pupils. Greek and Scottish pupils were found to differ in relation to Q.S.L. levels total and across domains with a privilege of Scottish pupils regarding Q.S.L. Q.S.L. was not found to be the best predictor of self – rated performance neither across subjects nor overall. School self – esteem was found the best predictor of self – rated performance overall. However, Q.S.L. was found to be associated with school misbehaviour, but again it was not its best predictor. The best predictor of school misbehaviour was found to be gender, with males being more likely to misbehave than females. Nevertheless, Q.S.L. was found the best predictor of overall involvement in bullying and / or victimisation, alongside with school stress, implying its significant association with the phenomenon as a whole. It was also found that peer self – esteem and demographics, such as gender, differentiate bullies and victims. Finally, Q.S.L. was found to predict at best smoking maintenance, whereas other factors (e.g. school stress) where found to predict at best experimentation with smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs and maintenance of alcohol use.

An investigation into bullying behaviour in Irish prisons
Leddy, Joanne
Trinity College Dublin
Bullying in a primary school: a case study
Lee, Christopher Graham
University of Plymouth

Bullying has become a significant issue for schools and one that has attracted the media spotlight. It has also received considerable attention from the research community since the late 1980s following the tradition established through the work of many Scandinavian researchers. Much of the research has been longitudinal and sought to illuminate the experience of children who bullied or were being bullied. There has been considerably less research into teachers’ and parents’ understanding and experience of bullying between school children. This thesis seeks to rectify that situation by examining the views of Year 5 and 6 pupils, teachers and a sample of parents from a case study primary school. The research was conducted over a period of two years in a school referred to under the pseudonym Nicholas Street. The thesis investigates three questions: first, the meaning that key parties attribute to the term bullying; second, the nature of their experience in the context of the school; and third, their views on how it is handled or resolved. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and reinterviews with teachers; unstructured and semi-structured interviews, questionnaires and a selection ‘game’ with pupils and semi-structured interviews and questionnaires with parents. All interviews were audio-taped and transcribed onto a computer database (Hyperqual) and questionnaire responses from pupils were analysed with the support of computer technology (SPSS). The inductive analysis commenced with a case study of a single pupil, Lorraine. This provided the reference point for the structured analysis of bullying issues in the wider context of the school. Findings include: 0 the differing ways that bullying was defined by the parties; 0 the emergent distinction between a relationship that was founded on bullying and an action that might be described as bullying; 0 that bullying usually occurred between pupils in the same class and was not a clandestine activity nor unknown to non-participants (the secretive image); 0 that, although there was a degree of satisfaction reported by all parties concerning methods deployed in handling bullying, there was also inconsistency, confusion and a lack of awareness of policy.

Adult workplace bullying: a qualitative study of social and psychological processes
Lewis, Sian Elisabeth
University of Birmingham

This thesis is presented as three papers. Paper 1, a literature review, examines causes, processes and health effects of workplace bullying. It examines the relationship between adult workplace bullying and health. It discusses the roles of personality factors and environmental and organisational factors in explaining workplace bullying and implications for intervention, prevention and treatment. Paper 2 reports a qualitative study, based on in-depth interviews with ten professional British women who were targets of adult work-place bullying. Data were analysed using grounded theory methods. The study investigated social and psychological processes in workplace bullying. Key themes which emerged included a central category of Change and Continuity in Social Relationships, which described how relationships both inside and outside the workplace developed during bullying. Linked categories were Being Heard/No Being Heard and Maintaining/Losing Self-Worth; these described others’ reactions to workplace bullying and how failure to support targets impacted upon targets’ self-esteem. Paper 3, using the same sample and methods, describes some barriers to targets’ disclosure and recognition of bullying, which have implications for help-seeking behaviours. Overall, this thesis emphasises the role of social processes in explaining the development of workplace bullying and its impacts on targets, and their implications for clinical psychologists.

Bullying in the workplace: an exploratory study of white and ethnic minority employees using the grounded theory approach
Mehta, J.K.
University of Leeds
The obsessionality of obsessional following: a survey reviewing the potential usefulness of classifying stalking as an addictive disorder.
O'Donnell, Siobain
Dublin Business School

Stalking – or Obsessional Following – is one of the least researched and most misunderstood phenomenon in contemporary society. It is often primarily related to domestic violence, celebrity harassment or sexual predation. Stalking is a serious behaviour that involves the repeated intentional and malicious following and harassment of a person causing that person to fear for his/her safety. Only the creativity and ingenuity of the stalker limit the variety of specific strategies employed and behaviours displayed. This thesis explores the possibility that stalking behaviour should be considered an addictive disorder. In order to support this theory – Firstly, this thesis reviews legal, forensic psychological, psychiatric and psychological definitions of stalking and of addiction. Secondly, the situation regarding stalking in Ireland is reviewed. Thirdly, the thesis reports on two research surveys conducted on (a) a sample of victims of stalking, and (b) a sample of professionals working with stalkers. All stalkers in question had indulged in distressing and potentially dangerous behaviours ranging from following, loitering in the victim’s vicinity, approaching and sending letters to use of physical violence, causing criminal damage, illegal detaining and sexual assault. The survey questionnaire was devised so that the results assess aspects of stalking behaviour that may be indicative of addictive disorder. The results were compared to the criteria for addictive disorder suggested by Goodman (1990). The conclusions drawn indicate that it could be conceivable to consider stalking behaviour as an addictive behaviour following further and more extensive research. Finally, arising from this research, suggestions are made for suitable treatment and support options for recommendation to stalkers, victims of stalking and people who have been affected by stalking behaviour.

A child-centred approach to childhood poverty and social exclusion
Ridge, Tess
University of Bath

This thesis places children at the centre of the research process to develop an understanding of childhood poverty and social exclusion that is grounded in children’s own accounts of their lives. The study examines historical and contemporary representations of children in poverty, and takes a critical, child-centred, look at current anti-poverty policies. For the empirical part of the study child-centred research methods were chosen to explore the economic, social and relational impact of poverty and social exclusion on children’s lives. Forty in-depth interviews were conducted with children living in families in receipt of Income Support. The interviews covered children’s perceptions of their material, social and familial lives. In addition, seventeen parents were interviewed about issues related to their children’s lives. The child-centred approach continued with secondary analysis of the BHPS Youth Survey, which explored whether Income Support/JSA children differed from other children in the sample, in their perceptions of school. Children’s accounts reveal severely restricted social environments and limited access to economic and material resources. Opportunities for social engagement and participation in shared activities were constrained, affecting social lives and social networks. Within school children highlighted fears of bullying and difference, compounded by inadequate resources for full participation in social and academic life. The quantitative data reveals significant differences between Income Support/JSA children and their non-benefit counterparts, with many Income Support/JSA children indicating disillusionment and disengagement with themselves as students and with their schools. Increased Income Support levels and non-stigmatising provision of welfare-in-kind, targeted directly at children, and informed by children’s own perceptions of need, is recommended to facilitate children’s social inclusion and integration. The findings also inform the development of a conceptual framework with which to conceive a child-centred approach to childhood poverty and social exclusion, one that could incorporate children’s own meanings and perspectives.

Stress in the social services: individual and organizational perspectives (BL)
Short, E.E.C.
University of Bristol

Three studies are presented within this thesis that examine the effects of occupational stress, individual coping behaviours and specific dispositional characteristics on well-being. Building on an integrative review of the literature, a theoretical model of the stress process was developed which was based on the general transactional model. Study One was an investigation of stress in trainee social workers using repeated measures methodology. Measures represented the proposed model in order to test it. Study Two investigated well-being, coping, interventions and attitudes towards employer duty of care amongst a sample of Social Service Employees. A high incidence of stress was found, particularly amongst students. Elements in the stress process most important in predicting outcome were negative affectivity and mastery. These elements were also found to have significant interactions with coping styles in the prediction of well-being. Coping behaviours produced two factors: direct and indirect coping. Dispositional coping was more important in the prediction of outcome, although direct coping was generally associated with better outcomes. Qualitative data was collected in Study Three in order to complement the first two studies by providing a context to the quantitative findings. Employee perceptions of the legal responsibility of employers to offer protection from extreme stress and respond effectively to stress related problems were also explored. Results indicated that bullying and violence were sources of extreme stress and that employees were unclear about the help available or their employer’s legal responsibilities.

Exploring post-traumatic stress symptoms in bullied adolescents (BL)
Smerdon, J.
University of Southampton

The dissertation explores post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms in bullied adolescents. The initial part of the literature review discusses prevalence, gender differences and developmental aspects of bullying. The risk factors of being bullied are explored as well as the subsequent sequelae. The second part of the review discusses the adolescent trauma literature, particularly focusing on the developmental issues and sequelae. Because only a small proportion of individuals experience PTS symptoms, the moderating and mediating factors of developing PTS symptoms are discussed. The final section of the review brings the two bodies of literature together and argues that some bullied adolescents may actually be experiencing PTS reactions. The empirical study tests the argument proposed in the literature review that bullied adolescents experience symptoms associated with PTS symptoms, exploring the moderating role of social support and mediating role of dissociation. The participants were members of a secondary school (n = 689) who filled in four questionnaires exploring bullying experiences, levels of dissociation and support, and PTS symptoms. The results indicated that those who reported being bullied experienced significantly more PTS and dissociation symptoms that those who reported not being bullied. Over half of those bullied more than once or twice had scores for the Impact of Events Scale which fell in the clinically significant range for PTS symptoms. Dissociation was found to be a mediator between bullying and PTS symptoms but social support was not identified as a moderator. The implications for clinical practice and future research are discussed.

Bullying and peer relations in two primary schools
Stacey, Alison Christine
University of Cambridge

Very little research has been carried out on bullying in infant school children. In this study I interviewed approximately 300 children aged from four to eleven. Three separate waves of interviews were conducted at approximately six-monthly intervals over two academic years; over 200 children were interviewed twice and 110 were interviewed three times. Children were asked questions concerning their experiences of bullying and victimisation, and also questions designed to determine their popularity. They also rated their peers for popularity, bullying and victimisation. Teacher ratings of popularity, and bully and victim status were obtained by questionnaire. Children’s own definitions of the term bullying were obtained. I discuss the implications of these definitions for existing research. Given the lack of consensus concerning the definition of bullying, a non-arbitrary measurement of bullying was derived from principal component analysis (P.C.A.). The same technique was used to obtain measures of victimisation and peer status. In addition, more traditional measures of these topics were investigated. Results using P.C.A. were broadly similar to those using traditional measures. This substantiates the results from studies which use a narrower range of data sources, although the importance of accurately specifying the time-frame was underlined. Results regarding the popularity of bullies and victims were largely independent of the data source; both bullies and victims were found to be less popular than non-bullies and non-victims respectively. A significant proportion of the variance in the popularity variables was related to the discrepancy between the way children see themselves and how others perceive them. Discrepancy may be an indication of low self-esteem; discrepancy was found to correlate significantly with bullying and victimisation. Low self-esteem may be one of several mechanisms which mediate the relationship between peer status and bully or victim status; the possible policy implications are discussed.

Evaluation of a controlled social problem-solving group-based intervention with vulnerable incarcerated young offenders
Biggam, F. H.
University of Wales, Bangor

Recent research has indicated that vulnerable incarcerated young offenders – such as those placed on formal protection as a consequence of their inability to assimilate into mainstream regimes, victims of bullying, and those who have engaged in or intimated the possibility of suicidal or parasuicidal behaviour all display impoverished problem-solving abilities. Furthermore, the deficits in their problem-solving skills are significantly correlated with the levels of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness these vulnerable prisoners experience. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a time-limited, group-based, problem-solving, training intervention with such vulnerable incarcerated young offenders. A total of 46 prisoners were randomly assigned to either the experimental intervention or a non-treatment condition (23 inmates in each condition). All participants completed measures of psychological distress (HADS, BHS) and self-perceived problem-solving abilities (SPSI-R) at intake, immediately following intervention, and at three-months follow-up. The value of a brief problem-solving intervention was demonstrated in that the intervention participants experienced significant reduction in their levels of psychological distress (HADS, BHS) and an improvement in their self-assessed social problem-solving abilities (SPSI-R). Methodological concerns in the current study are discussed, and directions for future research are highlighted.

Direct and relational bullying and anti-bullying policies
Woods, S. N.
University of Hertfordshire
Social skills and depressive symptoms among children involved in bullying behaviour
Casey, Mary
National University of Ireland, University College Cork
Children’s perception of bullying and its relationship to self-concept
Cecchi, A.L.
University of Leeds

This research examines 8 – 11 year old children’s knowledge of bullying including their coping strategies and the effects of bullying on their self-concept. In the pilot study, a semi-structured interview developed from the work of Harris, Olthof and Terwogt (1986) was used to collect information on children’s experiences of bullying. In addition coping strategies which cold be used in the face of bullying, social support networks and the emotional experience of being the victim of bullying were also elicited. The children’s responses were categorised and Bullying Experience Scale and Coping with Bullying Scale were generated. These scales were used to investigate children’s bullying experiences and coping strategies in the main study. In the main study, the profiles of children identified as bullies, victims, both or neither, were investigated using these two new scales and two further scales, the Harter (1985) Self-Perception Profile for Children and the Butler (1994) Self-Image Profile. The aim was to categorise children into bully/victim groups and to determine how the self-perception, self-image, bullying experience and coping strategies of the children in these groups differed and whether there was an effect of gender. The results suggest, contrary to expectation, that it was the children who perceived themselves to be bullies who had the lowest self-esteem and also had more negative self-image compared to the other groups of children. Children who perceived themselves to be bullies, experienced higher levels of bullying than the other groups of children. Primary coping was the most subscribed coping strategy for the ‘bullies’ with the ‘victim’ and those uninvolved in bullying reporting more secondary coping strategies.

Women in combat: The status and roles assigned female personnel in the permanent defence forces
Clonan, Thomas Martin
Dublin City University
An examination of the relationship between bullying behaviour and an organisation’s psychological environment and management style
Dinnigan, Ann
Dublin City University
The nature of bullying in early childhood
Monks, Claire
University of London, Goldsmiths' College

Research into school bullying has focused in the main on children aged over the age of 8 years. This thesis attempts to redress the balance and describes a large empirical study investigating the nature of school bullying in a sample of 104 schoolchildren from two Reception Classes and two Year One classes in four London primary schools. The children were aged between 4 and 6 years. The roles taken in bullying were assessed using peer, self and teacher nominations. It was found that children did not nominate others for taking all of the Participant Roles identified by Salmivalli, Lagerspetz, Björkqvist, Österman and Kaukianien (1996), but were able to nominate peers for the roles of Bully, Victim and Defender. When the stability of these roles was examined over intervals of 2 months and 3.5 – 4 months it was found that, although both Bully and Defender status were relatively stable, Victim status was not. Although many children were exposed to victimisation transiently, only for a very few was it a stable experience. Some of the factors found to be related to bullying in older samples were found to support this. Young Victims were not physically weaker than others, they did not exhibit poorer theory of mind skills, neither were they socially rejected by peers or insecurely attached. These factors have been suggested as being potential risk factors for repeated victimisation or consequences of stable victimisation. Young Bullies were found to be physically strong, socially rejected and more likely to be insecurely attached. These findings are similar to those found in older samples of Bullies. However, young Bullies did not exhibit superior theory of mind as has been found in older groups. The understanding of bullying held by younger children and their teachers was also examined. The children held different definitions of bullying than their teachers, and were more likely to consider provoked aggression or a straight fight as bullying than their teachers. Each of these findings are discussed within a framework of the developing roles in bullying.

The criminalisation of stalking: the construction of the problem and an evaluation of the solution
Finch, E.
The University of Wales, Aberystwyth

Stalking has been variously described as psychological rape, the crime of the nineties, a celebrity problem and a media created moral panic. Despite the high profile of stalking in the latter years of twentieth century, no satisfactory definition exists and the challenges that stalking poses to both the legal system and society have yet to be subjected to rigorous academic evaluation. This thesis redresses this situation by drawing upon a range of methodologies to present a thorough and comprehensive examination of the nature of stalking and the process by which this conduct became perceived as a pressing and prevalent social problem in need of a legislative solution. Having provided an in-depth exploration of the nature of the problem, the efficacy and sufficiency of the legal response is subjected to critical evaluation questioning whether a solution to the problem of stalking can be found in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Cloaked in silence: bullying in nursing – how widespread is it?
Frawley, Theresa
Trinity College Dublin