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.

Examining bullying in school: a pupil-based approach
Guerin, Suzanne
University College Dublin

The main aim of this study was to examining bullying in school from a pupil-based perspective. Study 1 used interviews with fifth and sixth class pupils in five rural and urban primary schools to develop a pupil-based definition of bullying. Analyses identified a number of areas where this definition differed from traditional research definitions. Study 2 examined the reporting of involvement in bullying using this definition. Pupils in fifth and sixth class in 19 schools completed an anonymous self-report questionnaire on their involvement. Although the results showed lower levels of involvement than a recent nation-wide study, there were a number of methodological issues that may explain these differences. Finally, Study 3 developed and tested a method by which pupils designed an anti-bullying educational intervention for use in schools. Assessments of involvement in bullying at pre-intervention and post-intervention were used to identify any changes in involvement. While no significant change was identified, the benefits and effects of involving pupils in tackling bullying were considered. Overall, it was concluded that researching bullying using a pupil-based approach added to our understanding of bullying in schools.

An examination of victims’ response to bullying, using process theories of appraisal and coping
Hunter, S.C.
University of Strathclyde
HIV and hepatitis B and C prevention in prisons (BL)
Large, S. A.
University of Southampton

This thesis comprises three studies that explore the attitudes and beliefs of prison staff and prisoners towards HIV and hepatitis B and C prevention policy in prisons. Analysis of the factors that influence the way prisoners and prison staff view prevention strategies highlighted some important issues form the perspective of the people most closely involved with implementation of prevention policy. The exploration of these issues was complex due to the security, legal, cultural and ethical issues that had to be considered. A case study approach incorporating qualitative and quantitative methods was used to try and embrace the complexity of the research aim. A qualitative foundation for staff and prisoner interviews was used for two reasons; firstly, so that the views of the researcher were not imposed and secondly, because there were few prior research studies to base the current study on. In addition, as prisons differ in security category and in the types of prisoners held, it was presumed that developing the research to give a wider representation of the issues would be valuable; this overview was achieved by questionnaire. Data were collected from ten prisons, there were forty-one in-depth staff interviews from three types of prisons; data from 182 questionnaires from 7 prisons and 18 in-depth interviews with prisoners from the three prisons where staff were interviewed. The results show that he predominant concern of staff is that the prevention policies discussed in the study are to do with sex and drug misuse; activities considered illegal within the prison environment. Staff believed that some of the prevention measures concerned with educing the risk associated with injecting drug use conflict with their discipline and security role and also conflict with the drug strategy policies that focus on eradicating drug use in prisons. Opiate detoxification programmes, abstinence based therapeutic programmes and drug-free areas were viewed most positively by staff and were portrayed as most closely aligned to their security and discipline role and the role of prisons in society. Most staff believed that providing condoms in prison would also act against their discipline and security role. This is principally because of the potential to conceal or smuggle drugs using condoms and also because the stigma of same sex relationships in prisons may lead to aggression and bullying from other prisoners.

The family and bullying: transgenerational patterns of attachment and parenting
Myron-Wilson, Rowan Rachel
University of London, Goldsmiths' College
Bullying in the workplace
Rayner, Charlotte A. L.
The University of Manchester

The study of bullying at work has received little attention in the UK beyond incidence studies (e.g. UNISON, 1997), and has only addressed negative behaviour. In the UK around 80% of ‘bullies’ are reported to be managers. This study reports on a census survey which explored treatment of subordinates by managers within two UK organisations. One aim of the study was to identify ‘bullies’ and their characteristics. In order to identify the ‘bullies’, reports about manager behaviour from subordinates were collated to provide a data set on each manager. Managers were labelled according to the level of group agreement and the (relative) level of negative behaviour reported. As subordinate respondents were not asked to label themselves as ‘bullied’ or not, only ‘tough managers’ were identified. Managers were labelled on a continuum from ‘Tough managers’ through to ‘Angelic managers’ -the latter exhibiting extremely low levels of negative behaviour. Managers completed a battery of pre-validated measures that included the Hogan Personality Inventory, a management style questionnaire and the Occupational Stress Indicator ‘mental health’ and ‘stress’ measures. Few full data-sets (i.e. manager and subordinate data) were achieved. No significant correlations were found between the manager labels and the measures from the HPI, OSI and management style. Qualitative analysis revealed that using personality profiles of managers was ineffective in predicting labels. The only qualitative relationship appeared to be the manager’s lack of satisfaction with their own achievement and a ‘tough manager’ label. Due to the small sample size, the findings were inconclusive. The study also aimed to test out whether behaviour that had previously been thought of as bullying (by researchers) actually did bother people. The whole subordinate sample (n= 626) was used. Respondents were asked separately whether they experienced behaviours and whether that experience had bothered them. A very strong relationship was found which adds validity to previous studies, although the full domain of behaviours may not be covered. People who reported negative behaviours were found to have an external locus of control, although the direction of cause and effect is unknown. This relationship was particularly salient for those who were unusual in their reports of considerable negative behaviour as compared to other people in the same work group who reported average activity. Similar tests for personality revealed less conclusive findings. The discussion includes a critique of the study. Principle amongst the outcomes of the study was that a methodology for labelling ‘tough managers’ had been developed which could be extended to labelling ‘bullies’. In addition, the author asserts that it is useful to investigate a wide range of behaviours in the study of bullying at work, not just negative behaviour. Some interesting differences in subordinates were revealed at the work group level and this may be an area for more specialist research where the manager and staff profiles could be examined using qualitative techniques.

The psycho-social correlates and long-term implications of bullying at school for lesbians, gay men and bisexual men and women: volume 1
Rivers, Ian
University of Roehampton

Research in the field of developmental psychopathology has suggested that the effects of trauma experienced in childhood and/or adolescence can remain with an individual for a number of years. This thesis reports on a three year study focusing upon the experiences of bullying at school for a non-probability sample of lesbians, gay men and bisexual men and women, and explores the psycho-social and long-term implications such events have for their development. Data collection consisted of four elements: a survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered adults’ experiences of bullying at school (N= 190); an assessment of the reliability and stability of participants’ memories (N=60); a study of their life-experiences post school (including measures of bullying in adulthood, negative affect, relationship status and post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]; N=119); and a series of in-depth interviews (N=16). The results suggested that participants’ experiences of bullying at school were both regular and long-term (mean: 5 years), with name-calling and ridicule being the most frequently cited forms of abuse. Over 50% reported contemplating self-harming behaviour or suicide as a result of bullying at school, with 40% making one or more attempts. As adults, they were found to exhibit indices of depression and anxiety when compared to samples of heterosexuals or lesbians, gay men and bisexual men and women not bullied at school. In addition, 17% were found to meet the criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD. However, for the majority of participants, there was little evidence of low self-esteem in adulthood, or discomfort with being lesbian, gay or bisexual. Similarity, in terms of insecurity within relationships, while participants expressed concerns about the nature of their relationships with significant others, there was no evidence to suggest that their fears had become realities. The results also suggested that social support mechanisms and personal resilience played a valuable role in mitigating against potential long-term effects. The implications of these findings are discussed with reference to current literature in the field.

Organisational cultures, patriarchal closure and women managers: in what ways do organisational cultures act as a means of patriarchal closure to exclude and/or marginalise women managers?
Rutherford, Sarah Jane
University of Bristol

This research investigates the gendered aspects of organisational culture. Empirical studies of two organisations, both with distinctive divisional cultures were undertaken. Employing and extending the Weberian concept of social closure, I ask whether, and to what extent, different organisational cultures act as means of social closure to exclude and/or marginalise women managers. I design a research typology for studying gender and culture, consisting of gender awareness, management style, time management, public/private divide, informal socialising, and sexuality. I draw on several different theories of power to explain hierarchical gender relations in organisations. I found that a Weberian concept of legal rational authority is still relevant to organisational life, particularly leadership. The concept of discourse, as meaning what may be said at any one time, proved useful, particularly in illuminating the public/private divide. I argue that a concept of patriarchy is still vital for a feminist analysis of organisations and Gramsci’s concept of hegemony helps explain why women are seemingly complicit in their own oppression. The research highlights the importance of an adequate definition of orgnisational culture in order to identify its exclusionary characteristics. Different constituents of culture may act to exclude women in different ways and in different areas, even where a strong equal opportunities policy exists. Key findings include the prevalence of sexual harassment even at senior levels and in’feminised’ areas of work; the positive impact of a nonheterosexual culture on gender relations, and the importance of business demands on management style. At senior levels, long hours, informal socialising, management style, and the acceptance of a public/private divide act in combination or separately to marginalise and exclude women. Whilst women managers fare better in an equal opportunities organisation, men’s resistance to women in organisations becomes more subtle as overt discrimination is outlawed.

The design and operation of an anti-bullying policy: an exploratory study of the ESB
Banks, Denise
University College Dublin
Factors affecting one secondary schools’ efforts to combat bully/victim problems (BL)
Sewell, K.
The University of York

This research is a qualitative study of bully/victim problems in one secondary school where the main methods of data collection were interviews, observations, the draw and write technique and documentary analysis, with quantitative methods, such as questionnaires, used only when they would contribute to an understanding of the context of the case. The main aim of this study was to explore the factors which influenced the success of one secondary school’s efforts to combat bully/victim problems. The key research questions underlying this research focus were: (i) How do students and teachers define and interpret bullying behaviour? (ii) What factors influence how, when and to whom students report bullying? (iii) In what ways do teachers respond and what factors influence their responses? This study contributes to our understanding about bully/victim problems in two main ways. First, it makes a methodological contribution. The study was based in one secondary school and this type of in-depth, qualitative study is unusual in research in this area. Consequently, the experiences of the researcher may help to inform the design of future studies using this method. Second, it identifies a number of findings which may be important in combating bully/victim problems within schools. First, the study suggests that the student definition and the teacher definition of bullying appears to evolve over time and to be both interactive and interdependent. Second, the term ‘bullying’ was found to evoke a stereotypical image which appears to be unhelpful in both reporting and responding to bullying. Third, students appear to have expectations of those they report bullying to which may not be realised and that the success of any response is based upon the student’s perceptions of how well that person meets their expectations. Fourth, students are more likely to report bullying to a female senior member of staff, believing them to be most able to fulfil their needs. Finally, the response of teachers to reports or incidents of bullying appears to be influenced by a variety of issues including gender, previous personal experience of being bullied and professional experience.

Bullies, victims, bystanders: how do they react during anti-bullying sessions? (BL)
Berdondini, L.
University of Surrey

This study was carried out during an intervention program tackling bullying in classrooms. The study’s main aim was the exploration of emotional expressions (verbal and non verbal) of bullies, victims and bystanders, the hypothesis being that these children react in emotionally different ways. The intervention program was carried out in an Italian elementary school over a period of 8 months. The sample of the study included 6 experimental classes (in which intervention strategies were carried out) and 3 control classes (in which the normal curriculum was used). Peer nominations were used to single out bully, victim and bystander children. In experimental classes Cooperative Group Work (CGW) was carried out once a week. This was video-recorded and so was children’s behaviour in the playground. Using these videos children were interviewed at the beginning and at the end of the intervention by means of Interpersonal Process Recall (IPR, Kagan and Kagan, 1991). These interviews were also video-recorded, and then analysed using content analysis of the verbal emotional expressions and the Maximally Discriminative Facial Movement Coding System (MAX, Izard, 1979) for facial expressions. Moreover, naturalistic observation in the playground was carried out using a behavioural check list, again at the beginning and at the end of the intervention. Results show that during IPR victims displayed significantly less verbal and non verbal emotional expressions than bullies and bystanders, and that the latter showed indifference towards victims’ experience. In the last interview more empathy and more awareness about their own and the others’ emotions was found in most children. Some bullies and some victims did not show any change in the considered behaviours. Both victims and bystanders showed improvement of social skills during playground activities. Finally, peer nomination scores of bullies and victims of experimental classes significantly improved compared to those of control classes.

A portfolio of academic study, therapeutic practice and research including an investigation of the construction of a ‘crisis’ in male mental health (BL)
Sykes, C.
University of Surrey

I conducted two pieces of research, the first using a method known as discourse analysis, the second interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). The form of discourse analysis which was employed takes as its focus the analysis of verbal or written reports as behaviours in their own right. This was applicable to my first research project, which looked at the construction of a crisis in male mental health as represented in a series of newspaper articles. A position is taken that an awareness of the discourses surrounding masculinity is necessary for therapists who seek to help men with problematic enactments. I have been interested in this area since my involvement with research into male suicide. During the final year of my course I picked up the thread of this work in a review of the literature which explored how masculinity was theorized, including a focus on hegemonic constructions of masculinity and the implications for therapy. For example, it was suggested that seeking therapy itself conflicts with predominant enactments of masculinity. In addition there was an exploration of theoretical frameworks which might be appropriate for working with men. The use of IPA in my second research project links with the use of discourse analysis in the recognition of the importance of context and language in the shaping of the material gained. However, unlike discourse analysis, there is an attempt to gain an understanding of underlying cognitions in individual participants. The study looked at the subjective experiences of woman who had been bullied in childhood as represented in retrospect accounts obtained by interview. It was hoped to begin to address an inbalance in the research which had focused predominantly on the male experience, perhaps reflecting a general belief that bullying is more common amongst boys. I was interested in gaining insight into the memories of the bullying itself and its context and also into the meaning of the experience for the participants in terms of their developing selves.

A portfolio of study, practice and research work. Bullying in adolescence: an exploration of the mental health correlates of victimisation and the role of attributional style in psychopathology (BL)
Butler, C.
University of Surrey

This section comprises four research components completed over three years. These are presented in order in which they were conducted in order to show how my research skills have developed during training. The first component is a literature review from Year 1. This examines the efficacy of hypnosis as an adjunctive procedure to cognitive-behaviour therapy with adult mental health problems. The second component is a service-related research project which was completed in Year 2. This examines the test-retest reliability of a questionnaire designed to measure community and leisure participation in people with learning disabilities. This research was conducted in the context of a placement and so the implications for service provision are considered as well as theoretical aspects. The small scale research project, completed in Year 2, examines the mental health correlates of bullying in middle childhood. This theme is continued in the large scale research project, completed in Year 3, which examines the mental health correlates of bullying and the role of attributional style in psychopathology in adolescence. The small and large scale research projects utilised similar measures and were drawn from a matched target population to allow valid comparisons to be made between the results of these two studies.

Bullying amongst primary school children as a group process: a grounded theory study
Carey, Martin
University of East London
Bullying in the workplace: the stereotype bully?
Coleman, Alice
Dublin City University
The role of cognitive factors in the psychological outcome of bullied adolescents
Hayes, A. J.
University of Birmingham

Volume I is the research components of the degree and consists of three papers. The first paper is a review of the literature on bullying and examines the role of cognitive mediation in psychological outcome.  This review is prepared for Child Abuse & Neglect, the International Journal. The second paper examines the role of cognitive factors in psychological outcome amongst bullied adolescents.  This paper is prepared for The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.  The third paper is an exploratory study of the role of dissociation and anger in relation to coping strategies and realistic control beliefs in bullied adolescents.  This brief paper is prepared for The British Journal of Clinical Psychology.  Contrary to the journal requirements, tables and figures have been integrated into the text to aid the reader. Volume II consists of five clinical proactive reports.  These are outlined as follows: a short case study describing work with an adolescent school refuser, using a behavioural approach; a case study describing work with a man with chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following an occupational assault using a cognitive behavioural approach; a single case experimental design which examined the effects of ‘Sonas’ – an approach designed to improve communication in older adults with dementia; an evaluation of a community learning disability team providing for clients with a dual diagnosis of learning disability and mental health; and finally a presentation describing systemic work with a young adult presenting with panic and issues about seeking help.

Adjustment in adolescents with a cleft lip and palate: a preliminary investigation into experiences of shame and bullying
Eaton, Jane
University of Leicester

For some young people, the experience of having a facial disfigurement such as a cleft lip and palate can result in negative social interactions, often originating from the stereotyping reaction of others. Using the social rank theory of shame, the effects of bullying and teasing were investigated in a patient group of 16, 12-18 year olds with cleft lip or cleft lip and palate. The patient group were compared with a group of 16 of their peers with regards to their experiences of bullying and teasing, shame-proneness and the focus of their shame. The interactional effects of shame and bullying were also investigated in order to test a shaming-loop model of negative social interaction. The investigation necessitated two separate studies., The first study involved 215 adolescents from a secondary school and was required for the development of a focus of shame scale and gathering of data for establishing its psychometric properties. It also enabled data to be collected regarding the experiences of shame and bullying in adolescents without cleft lip and palate, in order that a random sample of 16 school adolescents matched with the patient sample on age and gender, may act as a comparison group. Participants completed self-report questionnaires concerning shame-proneness and focus of shame, and a semi-structure interview regarding their experiences of bullying. The second study involved the administration of the same measures to the patient sample. Results showed high levels of bullying for both groups although there was no overall difference between the groups. Differences were seen in focus of shame scores, with the patient group having higher scores on shame related to facial appearance than their comparisons. No overall differences were seen on score of shame-proneness. The implications of the findings are discussed and limitations of the study acknowledged.

Bullying in the workplace: a qualitative investigation of the experience of being bullied at work
Kelly, P.M
University of Birmingham

Volume I comprises the research component of the thesis.  It consists of three research papers which have been prepared for submission to specific academic journals (see Appendix I – Instructions to Authors).  Contrary to journal submission requirements, in order to aid the reader; tables and figures have been integrated into the text. The first paper is a review of the literature on the definition and causes of workplace bullying.  This paper has been prepared for submission to Clinical Psychology Review. The second paper is a qualitative research study of the experiences of eleven people who were bullied at work.  The aim of this paper is to develop a theoretical model of the experience. This paper has been prepared for submission to Theory and Psychology.  The third paper is a brief qualitative paper investigating the types of bullying behaviours experiences in the workplace.  This paper has been prepared for submission to the Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology.  The final section of Volume I comprises the appendices for all three papers.

A case-study on the incidence of and perspectives on student bullying in a rural vocational school
Flynn, Bartholamew J.
University of Limerick
Children’s understanding and experience of spina bifida
Hammond, Jacqueline
University of East London

This thesis reports a study which explored children’s understanding and experience of spina bifida. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 8 children aged 8-11 years with spina bifida. A grounded theory approach was used to develop ‘theories’ from the data. Analysis of the data suggest that all participants were aware of ‘being different’ from their “normal” able-bodied siblings and peers and that many identified themselves in terms of having spina bifida; they spoke about being picked on, teased and about other types of bullying; and all of them disliked their physical appearance. Several ways of coping with spina bifid a were also talked about by the children. Knowledge about spina bifida tended to be functional and obtained from parents; most of the participants reported that little information about treatment was given by medical professionals which seemed to contribute to anxiety regarding treatment and hospitalization. The implications of the findings for clinical practice and further research are considered.

Children’s explanations of aggressive incidents at school within an attributional framework. (BL: DXN049072)
Joscelyne, T.
Open University

Background and aims: This study explores the types of attributions children make about school bullying situations and how these attributions may be related to subsequent behaviour and feelings. The relevant research background is explored – both from a bullying perspective and an attribution perspective. Psychological models that are thought relevant are discussed – particularly the learned helplessness and the Beck’s cognitive-behavioural model. The aims of the study were: to explore the kinds of attributions made about bullying by a non-clinical population; to explore the different types of attributions made by children within a framework of later attribution theories; to explore the relationship between type of attribution and type of solution offered; and to explore the themes linking different types of attributions in children’s stories. Results: The results of the content analysis suggested that children made a range of attributions which could be coded into characterological and behavioural attributions. There was some suggestion from correlational data that these were related to the type of solution offered by the participants. Qualitative analysis explored some of the connections between the types of attributions and concluded by describing a typical framework for a ‘story’ about the bullying incidents. Implications: Several implications are explored for both bullying and attribution research. Suggestions are given for school interventions – particularly the importance of working with the powerlessness of victims. For clinical interventions, some ideas are explored for working with children who have been bullied or bully – although future research would benefit from looking at attributions within a clinical population.