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 geraldine.kiernan@dcu.ie.

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.

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An action inquiry into bullying, name calling and tolerance in a sheffield primary school
1997
Jenkinson, Ian
Sheffield Hallam University

Baden Road School was part of a Sheffield Project and results in 1992 indicated that bullying among pupils was getting worse. Unfortunately, bullying among pupils is usually covert and tends not to affect teachers in the same way that disruptive behaviour does. Despite the introduction of an anti-bullying policy little was done by the school to alter the trend. Curriculum has been at the forefront of planning and evaluation in school and the issue of bullying has failed to be reviewed. Teachers were already burdened trying to implement the 1991 National Curriculum orders when, with Government pressure to cut costs, the LEA closed a local primary school and class sizes increased by at least 10%. In the same year the junior school amalgamated with the infants to form Baden Road Primary School with a 3+ to 10+ age range and where the number more than doubled from 220 to over 500 pupils. In a second attempt to persuade the school that something must be done about bullying, case study was a useful way to collect more evidence. While experts cannot agree on a standard definition of bullying, as children are the real experts of what happens, the pupils at Baden Road School found the task easy providing a basis for other data about bullying to be analysed. The case study then gave rise to action research which examined closely appropriate preventative and interventionist methods. Name-calling emerged as the most common form of non-physical bullying in school. Language was found to be critical as a way by which children determine who is bullied and who is not and as a solution to bullying behaviour. While the language used by Baden Road pupils is not representative of any other school it served to demonstrate connections between teasing, bullying, toleration and their effect on pupils. A model hypothesis arose from the question of what determines offensive and tolerable name-calling. The evidence suggests that Baden Road School needs to change to planned routine ways of preventing bullying and intervening in the cases which develop. First though, teachers have to believe that the issue of bullying needs reviewing and evaluating. The success of this study is in the effect it has on facilitating any changes which will promote further awareness, a permanent anti-bullying ethos and better uniform ways victims and bullies are helped in school. Teacher support, as in any school, is critical to the degree of success or failure of this initiative.

An investigation of bullying in girls’ secondary schools in counties Mayo and Galway
1997
Lynch, Mary G.
University College, Galway
Differing perceptions of bullying (BL)
1997
Madsen, K. C.
University of Sheffield

This thesis describes two separate but related studies. The first, study 1 investigated age and gender differences in participants’ perceptions of the concept of bullying. 159 participants were individually interviewed. Approximately 20 males and 20 females were in each of the following age groups: 5- 6, 9- 10, 15 – 16, 18 – 29 years of age. Interviews began with the participants giving their definition of bullying. Once this had been completed, 26 hypothetical scenarios were presented, containing various features involved in bullying. Participants were asked whether they believed bullying had occurred or not and the reasons for their response. Later 4 open ended questions were asked. Finally, participants were asked to give their definition of bullying again. Findings from study 1 indicate that though different from that of older participants, children as young as 5 and 6 years of age have a comprehensive understanding of bullying. Many age related differences were found in study 1, however few gender differences were found. These findings will be presented and their practical implications for teachers and for future research into the extent and prevention of bullying will be discussed. Study 2 investigated parent versus teacher conceptions of bullying. This study employed 80 participants; 40 teachers and 40 parents, balanced for gender. A modified, shorter version of the study 1 interview was used. Various parent – teacher differences were found. These differences will be discussed in reference to how they may affect parent-teacher liaison when dealing with issues of school bullying. Finally, pupil responses in study 1(5 – 6, 9 – 10, and 15 – 16 year olds) will be compared to parent and teacher responses in study 2. Differences revealed will be considered in relation to their practical implications for intervening in bullying situations.

Bullying in schools: a study of stress and coping amongst secondary aged students who have been bullied
1997
Sharp, Sonia
University of Sheffield

The aim of this study was to establish how stressful secondary aged students find being bullied at school and how they cope with it. Variations in stress caused by different types of bullying were considered as were individual differences in levels of stress reported. A further aim of the study was to identify whether students who experienced less types of bullying employed a different set of coping strategies to those used by students who experienced a wider range of bullying behaviours. 1131 students attending 6 different secondary schools were involved in three related questionnaire surveys. This was supplemented by interviews with 22 students who were known to have been persistently bullied. The results suggest that bullying causes low level stress for most students, leading to common stress effects such as irritability, feeling panicky or nervous, repeated memories, impaired concentration. For a smaller number of students bullying causes high levels of stress and more significant effects. Long term bullying and rumour mongering were perceived as most stressful. Most frequently used immediate coping strategies included ignoring the bullying or walking away. Common preventative coping strategies were staying close to other peers, standing up to the bullying students with peer support and working out a solution. Bullied students used a wide range of strategies, with no particular group of strategies appearing more effective. Self esteem, resilience and assertiveness all seem to buffer the negative impact of bullying. The thesis goes on to explore the implications of these findings for school based intervention, in particular need to identify bullying as an organisational stressor and therefore resistant to change at an individual level.

Sexual harassment in the workplace: a case study of an Irish organisation
1997
Tiernan, Fiona B.
Trinity College Dublin
Fear in prisons: its incidence and control
1997
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 longitudinal survey of secondary school pupils’ perceptions of the definition, incidence and processes of bullying (BL)
1996
Arora, C.M.J.
University of Sheffield

This study, which took place in three phases, looks at pupils’ perceptions of bullying and of the incidence and nature of bullying in a secondary school over a period of three years. The changes in the children’s perceptions of the incidence of bullying over this period are discussed and the implications of the variability in perceived incidence of bullying are drawn out. A convenient questionnaire for describing pupils’ perceptions of the incidence of bullying was devised and used to help define bullying in terms of actions between children over the period of the study. A definition of bullying was arrived at which six key statements supported by, on average, half of the pupils. A further phase of the study addressed boys’ perceptions of the process of bullying and of the school’s attempts to minimise bullying. During the period of the study, children’s perceptions of the incidence of bullying varied between different Year groups, whilst in the school as whole, the perception of the incidence of bullying and of ‘one-off’ aggressive actions reduced over time. The variability in the perceived incidence for each of the three cohorts of children, which were surveyed annually during the period of the study, was different from that of the whole school. From this, certain elements are seen as crucial in the accurate assessment of incident and monitoring of interventions, particularly regular monitoring at class and Year group level and a recognition of the complex nature of the definition of bullying itself. The implications of this study for other research into bullying and for schools attempting to monitor bullying are discussed. It is argued that, when children use the word “bullying”, they refer mainly to a core psychological process in which domination of a personal peer group is achieved through bullying type actions. A complex social mechanism is proposed in which there is an interdependent relationship between the main bullying protagonists and their supporters, in which the victims are incidental rather than central to the process, with the role of the witnesses and bystanders being crucial. Recommendations are made for schools and Local Education Authorities, as well as suggestions for further research.

Bullying among incarcerated young offenders
1996
Connell, Patricia Anne
University of Cambridge

The purpose of the present research is to advance our knowledge and understanding of bullying behaviour among incarcerated young offenders. This involved conducting a large-scale study investigating the prevalence, frequency, and circumstances of bullying, correlates of bullying, and characteristics of bullies and victims in young offender institutions of varying security level and type. Recommendations are made concerning how levels of bullying can be reduced based on the results. Bullying can be defined as the repeated oppression, psychological or physical, of a less powerful person by a more powerful one. This kind of behaviour is perceived as a serious problem in young offender institutions and has been implicated as the primary cause of recent deaths in at least one young offender facility. Although there is a substantial amount of research investigating bullying among school children, bullying in offender populations has been virtually ignored by criminological and psychological researchers until very recently. A sample (N=190) of male young offenders in Canadian custody facilities of varying security level and type were administered two standardized inventories measuring the prevalence, nature, and frequency of bullying behaviour, the response of staff and peers to this phenomenon, and psychological and background characteristics of offenders who are bullies and victims, as well as those who do not fall into either of these categories. A pilot study was conducted in order to develop a questionnaire to collect basic data on bullying among incarcerated young offenders and assess its value. In addition, a study was conducted in order to validate offender self-reports of bullying and victimization concurrently against peer nominations and staff reports. Information and knowledge concerning the nature and extent of bullying in a facility, the types of individuals who are likely to become bullies and victims, and circumstances within institutions which may permit or encourage bullying behaviour can be useful to correctional practitioners and policy makers. This kind of information could assist them in making institutional changes to aid in the prevention and reduction of bullying behaviour. It could also help them to classify offenders as bullies and victims to aid in the implementation of prevention measures targeted as these individuals, as well as for need and risk assessment. Hopefully, a large programme of research based on this thesis could lead to significant advances in knowledge about bullying in young offender institutions and hence to significant decreases in this troubling problem.

Bullying in coeducational boarding schools: towards a whole-school approach
1996
Finnegan, Kathy L.H.
Trinity College Dublin
The investigative interviewing of children
1996
Westcott, Helen Louise
University of Leicester

Four studies examined the investigative interviewing of children. Their purpose was to consider the way that children are interviewed, particularly about suspected sexual abuse, so that broader contextual factors were explicitly taken into account. To facilitate the research, an ecological framework was adopted. This stressed the importance of obtaining children’s views and relating findings to the child’s position, and of studying investigative interviewing in a wider practice and policy context than has previously taken place. In the first study, children who had been the subject of an investigative interview for sexual abuse participated in indepth interviews. The second experiment contrasted child and adult interviewers finding out what had happened during a videotaped event. Children’s help-seeking behaviour in relation to bullying and parental arguing was explored through a questionnaire in the third study. Finally, training on the Memorandum of Good Practice in Area Child Protection Committees (ACPCs) was surveyed via a questionnaire. Findings from the first and final studies suggested that the Memorandum is too heavily evidential at the expense of children’s welfare. In practice, investigative interviews resemble interrogations, rather than opportunities for children to talk about problems. The studies of children’s help-seeking, and their experiences of investigative interviews, contained a number of pointers for individual practitioners. In particular, children want supportive and empathic professionals. However, the need to reconsider children’s social networks in relation to professional intervention was highlighted by the absence of professional helpers chosen to assist with interpersonal problems. The value of interviewer training was emphasised by the study of children-as-interviewers and the survey of ACPCs’ training. The research demonstrated the importance of considering the wider context of investigative interviewing, and specifically the influence of the criminal justice system. The ecological approach proved a valuable framework, but the problems of researching macro-level systems and power structures remain.

The nature and extent of bullying in Irish primary schools
1995
Bloomer, Anna
University College, Galway
Preventing child sexual abuse, bullying and other threatening situations: development and evaluation of a school based programme
1995
Lawlor, Maria
Trinity College Dublin
An inclusive analysis of sexual harassment at work
1995
Middlemiss, G.
The University of Edinburgh
Bullying: a comparative study among children in sixth classes in four large suburban primary schools in Dublin
1995
Moriarty, Tomas
University College Dublin
The preferences of restaurant operative staff concerning leadership style: a study in thailand
1995
Phornprapha, Sarote
University of Surrey

The research confirmed that, to be effective, a leader’s style must fit the situation. The leader must correctly identify the behaviour required in a given situation, that is, appropriate to time, place, culture and people involved. Indeed, in almost any leadership situation, one will need to balance the two dimensions of task orientation and people orientation. The research also suggests that staff’s preference of a supervisory leadership style in the service and food production setting is for a “maintenance oriented” style. Moreover, this research argues that it is possible to identify the specific functions which are required by a supervisor in each situation. The first category of incidents suggests that operative staff tend to believe that their supervisors must have appropriate technical and coaching skills. Next, the category of misuse of power as well as the mismanagement of emotions, suggests the possibility of bullying and the risk of employees being exposed to abusive behaviour. Thirdly, the category of bias represents the normal human operative staff. The fourth category is very interesting: staff recall incidents when supervisors have gone beyond their roles (in the case of helping staff with their personal problems), to be one of the best actions that a supervisor can perform, but do not complain if this does not happen. This type of “sacrifice” may be related to Thai cultural norms. The other categories seem to be less significant (i.e. representing company, lacking self-assertiveness and general behaviour). Operative staff pay most attention to activities concerning the communication skills of their supervisors. Good communication does not simply concern the actions and necessary skills required by a supervisor in each situation, but also the correct mode of behaviour which staff feel their supervisor should display in that situation, to accomplish the intended goal.(DXN006,152)

Hidden messages, gendered interaction in israeli schools
1994
Abrahami-Einat, Judith
University of London, Institute of Education

This ethnographic study exposes hidden, sex differentiated messages conveyed to boys and girls in Israeli Jewish schools. The analysis of classroom interactions, the school culture, school documents, extra curricular activities, and teachers’ reflections about sex roles and their pupils’ sexuality, all render valuable information about the powerful undercurrents present in the Israeli educational system, that is officially committed to equal opportunities. The observations conducted over a full academic year in three schools, are read within their cultural context. References to those social constructs that both generate the subtle sexist practices observed, and explain their deeper meanings and far reaching implications, make this study significant to the understanding of the specific Israeli scene. In addition, the disparity recorded between the teachers’ stated commitment to equality, and their explicit and implicit gendered expectations, suggests a line of enquiry relevant to other educational systems too. The incompatability between traditional Jewish values, social constructs of modern Israel, and recent feminist critique, results in an ambivalent attitude to sex equity. This in turn leads to the resort to the most circuitous manner of preserving traditional values, that actually contradict the egalitarian ethos of each of the schools studied. Hence, the teachers’ belief in the complementarity of the sexes, their interest in the pupils’ patterns of heterosexual pairing, the insensitivity noted to subtle forms of sex discrimination, to sexual harassment and to double standards in evaluations, all suggest an agenda hidden from the teachers themselves. The gendered interactions and the hidden messages conveyed through them, are most pronounced in extra curricular activities. The conclusion is that whether or not the Israeli national curriculum contains or encourages sexist practices, the schools, in their unique ways, convey traditional messages about sex roles, in extremely subtle manners.

Co-education and attainment: a study of the gender effects of mixed and single-sex schooling on examination performance
1994
Hanafin, J.
University of Limerick

The proportion of co-educational post-primary schools in the Republic of Ireland has increased considerably. The literature on co-education points to a negative effect of co-education on girls’ academic outcomes. To investigate the gender effects of co-education on attainment, the Leaving Certificate examination performance of pupils in a stratified random sample of 17 post-primary schools in Limerick city and county was analysed. A total valid sample of 1242 pupils completed questionnaires which measured social background characteristics, previous examination performance, as well as a variety of personal, peer, familial, school and teacher behaviours and attitudes. School Principals provided data on school factors including selectivity, frequency of discipline problems, streaming and attrition. When social background effects and school effects were controlled for, co-education was found to have no effect on boys’ Leaving Certificate examination performance and to have a negative effect on girls’ Leaving Certificate examination performance. Further analysis suggested that co-education influences girls’ academic outcomes through its mediating effects on certain social psychological factors, particularly through its mediating effects on girls’ educational expectations. Other co-education effects were also investigated. Pupils were significantly more likely to favour mixed rather than single-sex schooling. No statistically significant differences were found between mixed and single-sex school pupils in their perceptions of teacher-pupil relations, peer affiliation, or school happiness. Exploratory investigation indicated that sexual harassment of girls by boys is a feature of life in co-educational schools. It is suggested that co-education, in the absence of effective intervention, is unlikely to result in gender equity.

Aggressive behaviour amongst young people: school bullying and aggressive fighting
1994
Phillips, C.E.
The University of Manchester

This thesis explores the extent and nature of aggressive behaviour engaged in by young people. This is accomplished by focusing on two areas: school bullying amongst pupils and physical fighting – specifically amongst young women. It is speculated that bullying as one form of aggressive behaviour that young people engage in, is extremely commonplace. Furthermore, it is predicted that young women do engage in physically aggressive behaviour, both physical bullying and fighting, but they may be socialised out of this behaviour towards the end of their school careers. It is hypothesised that social pressures exerted on them led them to ‘swap’ aggression for femininity. The research hypotheses are examined using two data sources. These were 957 pupils at two secondary schools, and 31 young women from two further education colleges. The school pupils each completed a victimisation and self-report bullying questionnaire. The young women students were engaged in an in-depth interview which sought to find out about their experiences of aggressive behaviour, both as victims and perpetrators. The data found that various forms of bullying and harassment occur frequently in the lives of young people. These include verbal, exclusionary, intimidatory and physical types of bullying, as well as racial bullying and sexual bullying. Similarly, physical bullying and fighting amongst girls was reported, although limited support was found for the hypothesis that young women ‘grow out’ of using physical aggression. Further analysis of the data indicated that young people justify and sanction much aggressive behaviour amongst peers. Using concepts derived from the disciplines of ethology, criminology and victimology, a framework is presented which conceptualises this aggressive behaviour by young people as ‘normal’ everyday behaviour. The implications of this for prevention and future research are discussed.

What is bullying? An investigation of definitions given by children and teachers
1993
Marshall, I.
The University of Edinburgh
Cussing, fighting, bullying: aspects of pupil interaction in the lower years of a mixed, multicultural, inner city comprehensive school
1993
Slater, Andrew James
University of London, Institute of Education

Bullying has been a source of disquiet, if not moral panic, in recent years. Yet pupil experience outside the classroom has rarely been given the attention it deserves in educational research devoted to the problem. This study examines the social relations between pupils in the lower years of a mixed, multicultural, inner city school. It is based upon long term participant observation as a teacher researcher and aims to develop a sociological appreciation of aggression and bullying during school-day free-time. Part One explains the origins of the research. Recent studies of ‘cussing’ (verbal abuse), fighting (a topic which has hitherto received very little attention), and bullying are then examined in detail. The research seeks to identify the links, if any, between hostile social relations in school and broader social inequalities at a societal level. Further, it aims to tease out ways in which micro level divisions of power within the pupils’ social world shape, and are used by children within interactions. Close attention is therefore given to the meaning, or meanings, of the term ‘power’. Models of relative power which inform research focusing upon pupil experience are also identified. In Part Two, both the research site, City School, and the research techniques used are described. Cussing, fighting and bullying, forms of aggressive interaction which distress pupils and obstruct the achievement of curricular goals, are then examined closely. Consideration of gender, ‘race’ and age grading provides a sharper awareness of underlying power divisions and of how these constrain opportunities for the relatively weak. In Part Three, ways of improving the quality of experience available for pupils during school-day free-time are identified. Whilst the complexity of this task is acknowledged, the study concludes with a renewed sense of optimism about what may be achieved when teachers are more effectively equipped with the skills to understand and, where necessary, make sensitive interventions.