ABC research is spearheading the development of next-generation responses to bullying and related issues. The breadth of ABC’s research expertise is unique globally and the Centre’s structure supports collaborative innovation with external partners such as workplaces, schools, charities and other organisations. ABC has attracted considerable research funding from the Department of Education and Skills, the European Union, the Irish Research Council, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Human Rights & Equalities Commission, the Fulbright Commission and the Ireland Canada University Foundation.

Here are some of our current research projects:

TRIBES: Transnational Collaboration on Bullying, Migration and Integration in Second-level Schools

With immigration a growing, permanent and fractious part of the EU’s reality, integration is of foremost concern for policy-makers in Europe, and schools are recognised as an essential part of social stability and a key aspect of integration policy both at national and EU level. Schools provide crucial education for integration and citizenship, long term directly affecting social status, professional achievement, economic earning power and students understanding of cultural morality and societal principles, allowing both the individual to prosper, and the state and EU to benefit and build on their potential as a valuable new resource.

School safety, building inclusion and preventing bullying for all students is central to integration and their well-being. Yet in the face of a far more diverse society schools face challenges that they are largely not currently supported for. The scientific measures of school safety used today are outdated and do not reflect a modern, multi-cultural, multi-faith, Europe, while school communities are working in a fragmented, individualised manner in the areas of inclusion and bullying prevention.

This proposed COST Action aims to: enhance collaboration between stakeholders to update, enhance and pilot new ‘real world’ scientific measures and approaches, collate evaluated interventions and approaches around inclusion and bullying prevention to disseminate a comprehensive program/handbook for schools and a guideline policy document for authorities, building capacity, and working holistically towards ensuring the integration, safety and well-being of all students in EU secondary schools, to aid in the social stability of both the individual and society.

Researchers: Prof. James O’ Higgins Norman and Dr. Angela Mazzone

Funded by: European COST Agency

Amount: €576,000

BReAThE: Bullying Experiences Among Roma Children in Ireland.

Roma people are among the most disadvantaged societies in the EU. They have been experiencing poverty, racism, discrimination, harassment, and bullying at all levels. Experiencing these barriers can act as serious deterrents to Roma parents sending their children to school. A prevention program (facilitating the inclusion of Roma children in schools) to combat these barriers is key to unlock this vicious cycle. However, this is hampered by the continued absence of data on Roma, especially in regards to bullying. Without proper scientific research on the experiences of Roma children and school attitudes towards them no effective inclusion strategies can be developed.

Primary objectives of this project are: (1) to identify the prevalence and impact of bullying amongst Roma children, (2) to determine whether or not gender differences influence bullying, (3) to describe experiences of and attitudes towards Roma children among school and educational staff, and (4) to assess inclusiveness methods that schools employ.

Following these objectives, this project aims: (1) to create a cross-national policy advisory document and outline for a training module for Roma inclusiveness in schools to be implemented beyond the life of the project; (2) to enhance the cross-community capacity, advancing collaboration between stakeholders (e.g. Roma, NGOs, school communities, academia); (3) to facilitate the inclusiveness of Roma children in schools; and (4) to promote integration, reducing bullying, and enhancing the well-being of Roma students.

The project flier for the BReAThe project can be accessed here.

Researchers: Dr. Mairéad Foody and Dr. Seffetullah Kuldas

External Partners:

MUSICANTIA – Culture and Educational Roma Centre
NASC – Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre
KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism

Funded by: European Commission under Rights, Equality, and Citizenship Programme

Funding Amount: €224,815.50

Religious Identity and Bullying

Irish society’s religious adherence and practice is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly among young people. Yet the majority of Irish Post Primary schools have a Catholic ethos and Religious Education (RE) has both faith formation and theoretical elements. Research conducted in Irish schools found teachers struggled to address the needs of non-Catholic students, resulting in negative stereotyping, othering, discrimination and bullying of some students by teachers and peers (Stapleton, 2018; Carr, 2016; Parker-Jenkins, 2015). However, research also found students wish to learn about religion together and minority belief students valued and enjoyed many aspects of RE (Stapleton, 2018; Faas, 2016). This research seeks through questionnaires and interviews with RE teachers, to build on research which gave voice to minority belief students. The voices of students and teachers will be used to develop guidelines for inclusive RE.

Researchers: Prof. James O’ Higgins Norman and Dr. Kate Stapleton

External Partners: Humanist Association of Ireland

Funded by: Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC)

Amount: €19,436

GEM – Gender Equality Matters, Tackling Gender-based Violence

Parents, teachers and school heads are the target groups of this project since together they will have potential to change attitudes, values and behaviours across school systems. Social support is key to mitigating the negative effects of violence especially when there is also a possibility of reverse causation where individuals with low levels of social support may be more likely to be victimised with their isolation and lack of any form of social support drawing bullies to them. The project aims to adopt a systems theory approach to challenge, empower and change attitudes and behaviours of children, parents and educators using participatory, experiential and transformative methods where gender based bullying and violence is concerned.

Researchers: Dr. Bernie Collins and Dr. Seline Keating

External Partners: Italy (FMD); Spain (University of Murcia); Greece (KMOP) and Netherlands (ESHA)

Funded by: EU Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme.

Amount: €460,000

SEXED: Investigating online SEXual harassment and Exploitation in relation to the UN Sustainable Developmental goals.

This project is particularly concerned with the prevalence and impact of online sexual harassment and exploitation of teenagers. The overall aim of the project is to conduct a large-scale cross-sectional investigation of online sexual harassment and sextortion behaviours in adolescents in Sweden and Ireland, with particular attention to gender and psychological outcome. While the research published by FICAB in Sweden provides the grounding for a more extensive study on online sexual harassment, further research is needed to determine the role of peer pressure, friendships and social networks in prevalence rates. Research on sextortion is even less evident. There is no empirical evidence regarding its prevalence, or the impact it is having on the mental health and social networks of those involved. In addition, in conducting this research, we plan to raise awareness of online sexual harassment and sextortion as increasingly prominent child protection issues which currently have no relevant procedure set at the EU to counteract it. Thus, the objective of this project is to use its research findings to inform the broader area of policy development as well as anti-bullying/harassment interventions at local levels.

Researchers: Dr. Mairéad Foody and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman

External Partners: Friends International Centre Against Bullying (Sweden); UN International Telecommunications Network (Switzerland).

Funded by: Irish Research Council Collaborative Research Fellowship for a Responsive and Innovative Europe ‘CAROLINE’ – co-funded by Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions.

Amount: €234,694.20.

CoTES: Cyberbullying of Teachers by Students

The primary focus of this project is to identify the phenomenon of the cyberbullying of post-primary teachers in Ireland. This research attempts to provide a diverse understanding of the online lives of teachers in secondary schools, experiences of victimisation and how this in turn effects a teacher’s perception of school climate and help seeking behaviour. Gathering data from post-primary teachers, some of the variables for examination include how teachers self-regulate their profiles on social media, the security and privacy prevention tools used, role model behaviour and their attitudes towards communicating with students online. This research investigated the types of cyberbullying that teachers experienced and how this in turn effected their own perceptions of school climate by those who had and had not been cyberbullied. Results will identify differences between victimised and non-victimised teachers. This research utilises a mixed methods design to provide further insight into teacher cyber victimisation.

Researchers: Liam Challenor MSc and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman

External Partners: Teaching Council.

Funded by: Department of Education & Skills National Action Plan on Bullying.

Amount: €99,968.00.

ARIES: An Appreciative Inquiry into the Role of Empathy in Preventing Bullying in Schools.

This project reports on a case study investigating teacher empathy levels, and school climate, and how role modelling prosocial values and an ethos of respect and equality in the classroom sets norms for a positive school climate and a decrease in anti-social behaviour and school bullying.   This project looks at how empathic are teachers in a case-study school.  We then investigate the level of peer bullying in the school, and the final question examines to what extent empathy prepares teachers for tackling bullying and also cultivating children’s educational and holistic development.   In answering these questions, quantitative data is gathered using two tools.   The Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) (Davis 1983), to gather data on empathy levels among teachers.  The Olweus Bullying Questionnaire was administered to pupils to examine the level of peer bullying.  Qualitative data in the form of teacher interviews is examined to establish the school ethos and culture, with findings related to existing research in the field.

Researchers: Helena Murphy BSc and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman

External Partners: Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN).

Funded by: Department of Education & Skills National Action Plan on Bullying.

Amount: €99,968.00.

DisAbuse: Experience to Change, Providing the Right Support Services to Tackle Disablist Bullying

This project aims to expand and utilize existing knowledge and experience of all participating partners in order to learn from one another and innovate a more interactive, relevant, and experiential based set of training resources for use by both those with intellectual disabilities (ID) and special education needs (SEN) and those that may be training to work with them as teachers/educators or those who already are. The training course that will be developed will be directly applied to the target groups via the higher education partner organsiations. The aiming is to enhance not only the knowledge and skills of educators and student educators to help them better understand the difficulties of those with ID/SEN and aid in the prevention and intervention of their being bullied but also increase the knowledge and skills of those most likely to be targeted by disabilist bullying, fostering their increased socialization to a world in which they are often the most marginalised, by encouraging their direct input to the project and having both target groups train and learn together.

Researchers: Dr James O’Higgins Norman, Professor Mona O’Moore, Lian McGuire MA MPsych, Fiona Weldon MA.

External Partners: ISCTE University Institute of Lisbon (Portugal), University of Murcia (Spain), Fondazione Mondo Digitale (Italy) and Institute of Art, Design and Technology (Ireland).

Funded by: Higher Education Authority and EU Erasmus+ Fund.

Amount: €251,000.00.

E-Care: Promoting Empathy in the Workplace

The problem of workplace bullying is well documented in international literature. In Ireland it is estimated that up to 35% of employees have experienced or witnessed workplace bullying. Furthermore, between 2013 to 2015 bullying was a sole or joint feature of 96 % of cases taken to the Workplace Relations Commission during. Employers who failed to have effective policies and procedures in place are more likely to have penalties awarded against them. This project establishes an academic partnership between the National Anti‐Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) and the Health Services Executive (HSE) to undertake a number of research, resource and training initiatives with the HR Department of the Health Services Executive (HSE) to enhance their work on promoting dignity in the workplace for all staff with a specific emphasis on promoting self‐awareness and reducing bullying behaviour. In addition to providing training and resources the project involves an ongoing survey of HSE staff on their levels and types of empathy which can be related to how they will interact with others in the workplace. It is hoped that the impact of this survey and the overall project will contribute to an atmosphere of respect and dignity among HSE employers.

Researchers: Dr. Angela Mazzone and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman

External Partners: Health Services Executive (HSE) and ADAPT: Global Centre of Excellence for Digital Content.

Funded by: Health Services Executive (HSE).

TESIC: Taking the Temperature, Developing and Piloting an LGBT-Positive School Climate Evaluation Tool for Post-Primary Schools in Ireland

The project set out to develop and pilot a survey tool, which second-level schools can use to evaluate the positivity of their school climate and culture in relation to attitudes towards difference and diversity, with specific reference to LGBT identity. It is envisaged that the tool will be particularly useful in preventing / dealing with homophobic and transphobic bullying. It was in collaboration with the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network’s (GLEN). The project responded directly to the DES Action Plan on Bullying (2013), which recommended the development of this type on intervention, and to a key study commissioned by the Equality Authority, which stressed that Irish schools need to adopt a whole-school approach to LGBT inclusivity, including in particular whole school evaluation. As well as adopting a whole-school approach, it is often necessary to provide support directly to individual students and staff who experience homophobic / transphobic bullying (O’Higgins et al., 2010: 49). This is far easier to identify and deal with if the school has an LGBT Climate Survey procedure in place. A report on the pilot phase of this study is available here.

Researchers: Dr. Debbie Ging, Dr. Mark Rowantree, Joshua D. Savage MA and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman.

External Partners: Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN).

Funded by: Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission and Irish Research Council

Amount: €19,105 and €10,000.

Hate Track: Tracking and Analysing Online Racist Hate Speech

The project is concerned with racist hate speech in online environments, and has two components: the first part is the creation of a tool that allows the automatic harvesting and classification of racist hate speech on public Facebook pages and on Twitter, and the other part is concerned with identifying barriers to reporting such abuse. This project will be deriving definitions of racist hate speech through focus groups with anti-racist NGOs, operationalising these as part of a computer algorithm and collect instances encountered on Facebook and Twitter. The researchers will then discuss these again with informants to understand which they would report and why. The team also plan to compare the database with the database of ENAR Ireland, which collects reports of racism in Ireland, to see any differences and overlaps. The project will be associated both with ABC and the Institute for Future Media and Journalism.

Researchers: Dr. Eugenia Siapera

Partner: DCU Institute for Future Media and Journalism.

Funded by: Irish Research Council.

Amount: €100,000.

Learning in Liminal Spaces: The Impact of the Arts on the Development of Creativity in Post-Primary Education in Ireland

Irene White is a lecturer in Drama and English Education at the School of Human Development, Dublin City University. Irene is completing a PhD by publication centring on the theme of learning in liminal spaces. Focusing on the Freirean concepts of voice, dialogue, and empowerment, her research examines the participatory arts as a vehicle for transformative learning and highlights the importance of liminal spaces for marginalised communities. Drawing on the anthropological concept of liminality, the study investigates the role of socially engaged participatory arts organisations in providing such spaces in the community and considers how the practices of such organisations might translate into formal education settings. It is argued that the current emphasis on creativity in education policy if it is to translate into practice, would benefit significantly from insights into the ethos and practices of socially engaged participatory arts organisations currently operating in the non-formal education sector in Ireland. The research explores the personal, social, cultural, and educational benefits of promoting creativity through the participatory arts and identifies the narrative based methods of drama, storytelling and creative writing as effective tools in the democratisation of the arts and the promotion of equality in education.

Researchers: Irene White and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman

External Partner: Fighting Words

Funded by: Department of Education & Skills and National Action Plan on Bullying (2013).

Amount: €4000.00.

An Empiricial Investigation of Cyberbullying in Irish Youths

Cyberbullying has emerged as a high profile concern for health practitioners, policy makers, schools, teachers, parents, and communities across the world. In general, it involves using electronic forms (e.g., social networking sites and texting) repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him/herself. This form of bullying is believed to have devastating impacts on mental health. Despite the serious consequences of such incidences, research into this phenomenon is relatively limited in an Irish context. In addition, the factors that make some students resilient to these stresses (e.g. caring friendships) have never been studied in Irish schools. This is particularly surprising given their importance for informing intervention programs in educational and community settings. Therefore the aim of this research is to fill the gap in current literature by conducting a systematic large-scale analysis of cyberbullying from a psychological perspective. Specifically, we will investigate the prevalence rates,psychological impacts, risk and resiliency factors of cyberbullying and investigate its’relationship to traditional bullying. The proposed project will have a direct impact on public understanding and we plan for our findings to be used in a way that will increase the effectiveness of public policy as well as to enhance the social and emotional health of young Irish people.

Researchers: Dr. Mairéad Foody and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman

Funded by: Irish Research Council.

Amount: €85,000.00.

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