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Practical approaches to reduce the impact of bullying
  1. John B Pearcea,
  2. Anne E Thompsonb
  1. aProfessor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK, bConsultant in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Lincoln District Healthcare NHS Trust, 10/11 Lindum Terrace, Lincoln, LN2 5RS, UK
  1. Professor Pearce.

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Bullying can have significant and long term adverse effects on the health and behaviour of children. Not only does the victim suffer psychological and possibly physical damage, but the persistent bullies are at risk of continuing their aggressive, antisocial behaviour. Approximately one third of British schoolchildren report bullying.1 Achieving a reduction in the rate of bullying in schools would be a highly effective public health measure for the 21st century. This article considers interventions that may reduce bullying and ways in which victims of bullying can be helped.

Key messages

  • Bullying takes place when there is a deliberate use of aggression to cause physical pain or emotional distress within an unequal power relationship

  • Bullying is a form of violence to children that is often overlooked or dismissed as being unimportant; in fact bullying is costly to individuals and to society

  • Excessive childhood aggression may be reduced by encouraging parents actively to teach prosocial behaviour to young children

  • Successful interventions for established bullying focus on reducing the acceptability of bullying within institutions, ensuring that bullies are discovered and enforcing non-aggressive punishments, which may involve acts of reparation to victims

Recognising bullying

Bullying is not always obvious. Most bullying takes place away from the scrutiny of adults and the victim often feels unable to report what is happening because of fear of reprisal. Other sorts of bullying may be so subtle as to be dismissed as teasing, which is often considered to be acceptable. If the teasing involves intimidation and results in distress, it clearly falls within the definition of bullying.

In order to clearly recognise bullying for what it is, a definition of bullying is needed. Various authors have defined bullying; there are two essential elements:

  • the deliberate use of aggression to cause physical pain and/or emotional distress

  • an unequal power relationship …

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