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.

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.

The influences of peer relations on the stability of bully/victim patterns
Collins, K.E.
Queen's University Belfast

Bullying has become a pervasive problem in schools throughout the world. Although there has been an increasing research interest in many different countries, only a small number of studies have been carried out in Northern Ireland. The aim of this thesis was to identify the nature and extent of bullying in schools in Belfast. The stability of these problems over a one year period and the effect of bully/victim status on children’s peer relations and self-esteem, were examined. 8% of children at stage one (n=157) reported bullying others, 29% experienced bullying and 17% were involved as a bully-victim. At the final stage there was an increase in the number of bullies, with a corresponding decrease in victim and bully-victim reports. Despite this, there were identifiable groups of children who were repeatedly involved in bully/victim situations. There was a significant difference in the social status and reputation of children more accepted by their peers and perceived as sociable and aggressive, than children less involved. Stable victims were both rejected by their peers and had a negative social reputation, than any other group. Furthermore, the results indicated that repeated victimisation was related to low levels of self-perceived competence, whereas the self-esteem of stable bullies was comparable to not involved children. Overall, the extent of bullying problems indicated in this study and their effects on peer relations and self-esteem indicate that further research is needed in schools throughout Northern Ireland. The contribution that this study makes in relation to the existing body of knowledge on bully/victim problems in schools is discussed.

Children and young people living away from home: are there policies protecting them from bullying and peer abuse?
Cunningham, L.M.
University of Dundee
Parental occupation as a determinant in the incidence of bullying (BL)
Groeger, A.R.
University of Hull

The thesis examines various descriptions of bullying in fiction, biography and autobiography, comparing a traditional image of a bully with the more modern concept which enables many actions to be described as bullying. The difference between a description and a definition of bullying is explored using an analogy with the word “murder”. Murder can be achieved in many ways – stabbing, shooting, poisoning etc but none of them defines murder, the terms describe the means by which murder is undertaken. Bullying, in like manner, has no precise definition – merely a series of descriptive terms. Many writers have described the difficult experiences of young people at school – possibly because of their parentage. The children of teachers, policemen, famous people seem to attract a high level of attention because of their parentage. The school experiences of Prince Charles, Graham Green, Sean o Faolain, James Joyce and others are examined. The objective of the research was to examine the possibility that parental occupation might be a factor in bullying. Fifty children, in twenty schools, who were attending a school in which at least one parent was a teacher were asked to complete a questionnaire which was a modified form of the Olweus (1993) survey – (modified to include data on parental occupation and other family details) as well as interviews with students and teachers, 380 other children in five different schools were asked to complete the same questionnaire. The results were then compared. Many children experienced bullying but only a tiny percentage actually get bullied. Such a distinction is discussed. The possible application of literary extracts to illustrate examples of bullying and other acts of interpersonal aggression, to identify bullying and to show coping mechanisms is suggested and an anthology of such extracts is offered in a substantial appendix.

The hidden torment : a study of bullying and victimisation in Irish primary schools with specific reference to self-esteem
Hales, Anne Frances
University College Dublin
School bullying: a pre-policy exploration of the incidence of bullying and student perceptions
Keating, Margaret
National University of Ireland, University College Cork
Sexual harassment at work and the law in Ireland
O’Donnell, Mary Colette
University College Dublin
Young children’s images of the “enemy”: a study with Greek and British children (BL)
Paida, S.
The University of York

This study examined the enemy images as perceived by young children in two countries. The children’s sources of information as well as whom or what they conceived as a protector from the enemies were also inquired. The field of enemy images among young children is hitherto a relatively unexplored one. However, the study was influenced by more general literature on how children perceive their social environment, and in particular by the writings of Lambert and Kilneberg, Vygotsky, Cullingford, Dragonas and Frangoudaki. The empirical part of the study took place from January 1966 to February 1997 with 171 school children aged five to nine. It was conducted in Greece (in a big city and an island) and in Britain (in a small English city). Due to problems of access the number of British children involved in the research was much smaller than the Greek one. The data collection methods included semi-structured group interviews and a projective exercise, where children were asked to produce a drawing of an enemy. The children conceived specific groups or individuals as enemies. The following main enemy images could be distinguished: a. enemy-warriors (often countries that had been in a war conflict with their country in the past); b. enemy-criminals (people doing evil things, threatening the society; sometimes crime was associated with specific social groups, such as “the immigrants”); and c. enemy-acquaintances (other children at school or from the peergroup. Some cases of bullying were also reported). A number of sub-categories of enemy images were also identified. Almost all the interviewees described the same enemy images. They did, however, give different emphasis and meaning on what it is to have enemies, depending on their age, gender and place where they were from. The research suggested that the social context in which children live and grow up has the major role in the formation of enemy images; children’s age and gender also appeared to influence the images children held.

Telling tales: primary school children’s attitudes to reporting bullying
Powell, Deborah
University of East London
School influences on bullying
Roland, Erling
University of Durham

This thesis is concerned with the interactions between staff and interactions in the classroom in regard to bullying among pupils in primary schools in Norway. The main investigation comprised 22 primary schools. A total of 2002 pupils, grades 4-6, and 279 teachers participated. Information was obtained through the use of one questionnaire developed specifically for pupils, and one developed for teachers. Only two of 15 selected schools were significantly different from each other on both Bullying Others (BO) and Being Bullied (BB). The school low on BO and BB also had significantly better scores than the other school on all staff related variables. Information from all 22 schools, comprising 118 classes, was used in a class level study of the relationships between classroom management, social interactions between the pupils in the class and class level estimates of BO and BB. Both high scores on classroom management and high scores on social interactions between the pupils were strongly and negatively related to bullying others, and negatively but more weakly related to being bullied. To consider the problem of causality more closely, a small-scale field experiment was conducted with two groups of first grade teachers, each group consisting of 20 teachers and their classes. Two groups of control classes were included. The teachers in the field experiment were offered four one-day seminars plus group counselling during the first school year. At the end of their first school year, the pupils in the two experiment groups and those in the two control groups were compared. The pupils in the experiment groups scored significantly better than the control groups on bullying others, and being bullied, as well as on all other 8 variables studied. The thesis concludes with a discussion of the results, and a theoretical model is suggested.

Bullying: social inadequacy or skilled manipulation?
Sutton, Jon
University of London, Goldsmiths' College
A feminist study of men’s and women’s experiences of workplace bullying and sexual harassment
Lee, D.A.
University of Warwick
Fear in prisons: its incidence and control
Adler, Joanna Ruth
University of Kent at Canterbury

This thesis reports findings from three studies. It begins with a summary of the previous conflicting literature into the psychological effects of imprisonment. In an attempt to allow prisoners to speak for themselves and to identify research areas, the studies reported in the second chapter present illustrative quotations from interviews conducted with forty prisoners in low and medium security prisons. Following issues raised by these participants, chapters three to seven report findings from the first survey of fear in the Prison Service. Fifty-one per cent of prisoners and 67% of officers reported feeling afraid. More life sentence prisoners towards the beginning of their sentence and “vulnerable prisoners” not held in a Vulnerable Prisoner Unit report feeling fear. Seven per cent of the prisoners were afraid all of the time. The most common area in which prisoners felt fear was in their cell. Officers felt fearful in the context of situations in which control may be at risk. Officers also demonstrated a limited awareness of the fears felt by prisoners. However, they felt that prisoners would fear intimidation, bullying and being in debt whereas the prisoners themselves did not use any of these labels for their fears. Research reported in chapters eight to thirteen derived more information about the levels of fear and means of control utilised by officers. It particularly assessed the impact of female officers on male prison wings and their reception by the prisoners and their colleagues. Relationships between officers and prisoners are better than typically predicted and male and female officers do not favour different means of control, contrary to predictions. Chapter fourteen presents findings from a control group of police officers. The general conclusion is that fear in prisons is real, based on experience and both can and ought to be managed better.

A multi-methodological approach measuring bullying in schools, and the effectiveness of one intervention strategy (BL)
Ahmad, Y.S.
University of Sheffield

This research investigated the levels of being bullied and bullying for 8-15 year old pupils in school. Various studies showed that pupils’ own reports of being bullied and bullying differed from teacher and to a lesser degree peer nominations of pupils who are victims or perpetrators of bullying. Analyses of data examined the consistency of the results from two questionnaires, the ‘Life in Schools’ booklet and a questionnaire on bullying designed by Dan Olweus. Both questionnaires were evaluated for their usefulness in identifying levels of being bullied. In addition interview measures were also compared with reports from the anonymous questionnaire (Olweus questionnaire). Results showed that although there was consistency between the two measures, pupils were more likely to admit to bullying in the anonymous questionnaire than during interviews. Interview data was also collected at two time points. Study 1 investigated types of bullying, pupils’ understanding of what bullying is, and feelings of being bullied and bullying. Study 2 investigated types of bullying and who bullied whom in different ethnic/racial groups. The interview data led to the Olweus definition of bullying and questionnaire to be modified on two occasions to accommodate different types of bullying, that of indirect bullying and racial abuse. Data was also analysed to determine whether ‘ethnic minority’ pupils were more likely to be bullied or engaged in bullying compared to ‘white’ pupils. Results showed that there was no significant difference between the two groups. Further analyses of sex differences in being bullied and bullying showed that females used more indirect means of bullying compared to males although male levels of bullying were higher than that of female pupils. A Survey Service was also designed and implemented so that schools could carry out their own survey to investigate levels of bully/victim problems in schools. The Survey Service provided a package of information and a quota of questionnaires for teachers to administer to pupils in their schools. Results were then analysed by the University researcher and a portfolio returned to schools giving a breakdown by sex and class of pupils who have been bullied and bullying. The final analysis investigated the effectiveness of using a bully court in one middle school. Results showed that in the intervention classes levels of bullying declined and in the non-intervention classes bullying increased. The outcome of the results is discussed in relation to its effectiveness and the ethics of using this type of intervention.

Pupil and teacher perceptions of bullying in three mixed comprehensive schools
Bealing, V.M.
University of Birmingham

The study firstly identifies the level, and nature of bullying behaviour in 3 mixed urban comprehensive schools and secondly considers how school differences might affect bullying behaviour. Finally it examines the perceptions of those most closely involved, the pupils and the teachers. An adapted version of the questionnaire used by Olweus (1989) in his Scandinavian studies and in turn adapted in Britain by the Sheffield Bullying Project team (see Ahmad et al., 1991) was used to collect data from 1,155 pupils (514 girls, 641 boys) related to the aims of the project. Interviews with 60 pupils and 32 teachers, which included tutors and members from the senior management teams in each school, enabled information to be gathered from diverse sources and this illuminated the phenomenon from differing perspectives. The two principal instruments of investigation, questionnaire and interview, were supplemented by the use of documents and records where available and relevant. The research findings indicated that the three schools in question have an above average level of reported bullying which includes a high rate of non-physical bullying, primarily name calling and verbal threats. One of the main findings related to school differences, highlights the effect of awareness raising among pupils and subsequently the increased likelihood of pupils to report bullying behaviour. Surprisingly teachers in the same schools predicted higher levels of bullying than the pupils themselves who felt bullying in their schools was average to low. Teachers’ perceptions about bullying appeared to be less affected by school differences than by personal experiences. Pupils who had experienced bullying were not likely to volunteer to be interviewed and among this group differing or contrasting perceptions were linked to the length of time or severity of the bullying, how it had been dealt with and the part the victim had played in overcoming adversity, rather than any school differences.

Correlates of psychological distress in penal and psychiatric populations
Biggam, Fiona Helen
University of Stirling

This thesis is an investigation of social problem-solving skills, psychological distress, and supportive relationships among three distinct samples. The research groups comprise a) 25 depressed inpatients and a matched comparison group; b) 50 hospital admissions following an act of suicidal behaviour; and c) 5 sub-groups of incarcerated young offenders (inmates on Strict Suicidal Supervision, inmates on protection, victims of bullying, identified bullies, comparison group) with 25 inmates in each group. Data was collected by structured interviews, standardised psychometric measures of mood states (e.g. Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, Beck Hopelessness Scale), problem-solving ability (e.g. Means-Ends Problem-Solving Procedure) and supportive relationships (e.g. Significant Others Scale). Data were analysed by means of parametric statistical techniques (e.g. analyses of variance and multiple regression analyses). Eight cross-sectional studies are reported. Depressed patients demonstrated problem-solving difficulties, which were related to the level of psychological distress experienced. Clinically depressed patients were also found to differ from a comparison group in their autobiographical memory recall and concentration ability – both of which were related to their impoverished problem-solving ability. Deficits in problem-solving ability in the depressed patients were not an artefact of their verbal IQ. Regression analyses of the data relating to suicidal community inpatients illustrated that social support variables were the prime predictors of suicidal intent, depression and hopelessness. Social problem-solving variables also emerged as significant predictors of psychological distress, albeit to a lesser extent. Social support and problem-solving variables were also important moderator variables in the relationship between stress and suicidality. The studies conducted with young offenders illustrated a hierarchy of problem-solving deficits and psychological distress among the inmate groups. Problem-solving ability was not an artefact of verbal IQ. The value of using problem-solving interventions with vulnerable offenders is discussed. The importance of prison relationships in the experience of stress by inmates was also highlighted. Similarly, parental relationships were related to the levels of distress experienced while incarcerated. The results of each study are discussed in relation to the relevant literature, practical implications for clinical interventions with each group, and suggestions for future research. The findings of the thesis are discussed in relationship to transactional, stress-hopelessness-distress models of psychological illness and distress.

Family functioning, self esteem and problem behaviour characteristics involved in bullying behaviour in boys
Deasy, Derek
University College Dublin
Sexual bullying: gender conflict in pupil culture
Duncan, Neil
University of Wolverhampton

This thesis examines the experience of pupils negotiating their early adolescence within their secondary schools. Specifically, the focus is upon sexual bullying; the sexualised hostility and interpersonal conflict between pupils, and its role in the structuring of gender relations within the peer-subculture. The research adopts an ethnographic method, interviewing and observing pupils within the schools over a five year period. The existing research on bullying in schools is criticised for its concentration on psychologistical variables of deviancy within individual children at the expense of political and cultural factors. An attempt is made by this study to reproblematise the current theories on bullying in schools, and reconceptualise the phenomenon of bullying in terms of gender and cultural studies. From this perspective, a continuum of oppressive behaviours can be seen in operation, with homophobia and misogyny implicated in the practices and processes of pupils’ construction of sexual and gender identities. The extent of the effects of these practices upon general social relations in school are discussed, and the dynamic relationship between the subcultural value systems and official organisation of the school is explored. The schools’ formal structures of discipline and control of large numbers of maturing young people are analysed in terms of their unintended consequences. An examination is made of the schools’ official discourses on competition and normality, and of the adoption, distortion and intensification of those discourses by the pupils within their own value system of personal reputation. The study then analyses their effects on the forms of gender policing carried out by the subculture.

School bullying: the experience of ethnic minority and ethnic majority pupils
Finch, Lisa
University of Leicester

Bullying is widely acknowledged as an insidious form of victimization that is prevalent within our schools. In the context of a wider society that may in itself be racist, racial bullying in schools is beginning to be acknowledged both in the academic literature and the media. However, studies of ethnicity and bullying are scarce. The present study aims to highlight the experiences of bullying at school for both ethnic minority and ethnic majority pupils. In particular, the relationship between ethnic identity and the experience of bullying is examined. A total of 199 secondary school pupils aged between 12 and 13 years (Year 8) from an inner city school in Leicester participated. Two questionnaires were completed which assessed their experiences of bullying and ethnic identity. Significant differences were found for ethnicity regarding the overall experience of being bullied, with ethnic majority pupils reporting experiencing more bullying than their minority peers. Ethnic minority pupils were more likely than ethnic majority pupils to experience bullying with a racial content. No relationship was found between the effect of racial bullying and ethnic identity status. Some gender differences reported in the literature were reflected in the results of this study. The results proved difficult to interpret and a critical discussion of methodological limitations is offered. Implications of the findings for schools, and the clinical implications for psychology are discussed. Future research needs are also considered.