Bullying affects girls far more than boys
BULLYING affects three-quarters of school pupils, with girls affected the most, according to a new study.
Significantly more girls than boys encounter bullying and they suffer more psychological distress as a result, says the report, from researchers in Edinburgh and York.
One of the most comprehensive studies of the psychological affect of bullying, the report assesses 1,993 pupils aged 12 to 19 at 14 schools.
It discovered that 73 per cent had been bullied, had been perpetrators of bullying or had witnessed someone else being bullied.
Professor Ian Rivers, head of psychology at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, carried out the study with researchers at York St John University. He said: "It's really worrying to me what's happening with girls in the 12-16 age group."
His research found that girls were 12 times more likely to overreact to comments from others, and nine times more likely to become physically ill because of bullying.
They were also six times more likely to report symptoms interpreted as being of psychotic behaviour.
David Eaglesham, the general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said the findings were related to the different ages at which boys and girls mature.
He said: "At the beginning of this age group, girls are becoming particularly aware of differences between each other, while boys tend to herd together. This is something that has gone on for time immemorial, it is not new."
He said almost everyone could say they had been bullied at some stage, which was a societal problem.
He added: "Schools certainly have a significant role to play. But it is also up to society to teach children that they need to respect people regardless of any differences."
Brian Donnelly, director of Respect Me, Scotland's anti-bullying agency, said the impact of bullying was more widespread than previously thought.
Boys traditionally bully physically, he said, while girls will use psychological tactics such as ignoring each other.
He said: "Girls are more emotionally mature than boys and their skills in terms of emotionalising relationships are much better than boys.
"A lot of bullying is fear and imagination and girls are much better at understanding the impact of such behaviour."
For that reason he said girls tend to use cyber-bullying because it inflicts psychologically damage, rather than physically hurt people.
He said children must learn they don't have to get on with everyone all the time.
He also warned teachers to set a positive example: "If you are at a school where the headteacher bullies teachers and teachers bully, pupils are going to pick that up.
"The culture and ethos of a school tend to come very much from the top."
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