The Nature of Bullying in Early Childhood

Monks, Claire. 2000. The Nature of Bullying in Early Childhood. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Research into school bullying has focussed in the main on children aged over the age of 8 years. This thesis attempts to redress the balance and describes a large empirical study investigating the nature of school bullying in a sample of 104 schoolchildren from two Reception Classes and two Year One classes in four London primary schools. The children were aged between 4 and 6 years.

The roles taken in bullying were assessed using peer, self and teacher nominations. It was found that children did not nominate others for taking all of the Participant Roles identified by Salmivalli, Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, Osterman and Kaukiainen (1996), but were able to nominate peers for the roles of Bully, Victim and Defender. When the stability of these roles was examined over intervals of 2 months and 3.5 - 4 months it was found that, although both Bully and Defender status were relatively stable, Victim status was not. Although many children were exposed to victimisation transiently, only for a very few was it a stable experience.

Some of the factors found to be related to bullying in older samples were found to support this. Young Victims were not physically weaker than others, they did not exhibit poorer theory of mind skills, neither were they socially rejected by peers or insecurely attached. These factors have been suggested as being potential risk factors for repeated victimisation or consequences of stable victimisation.

Young Bullies were found to be physically strong, socially rej ected and more likely to be insecurely attached. These findings are similar to those found in older samples of Bullies. However, young Bullies did not exhibit superior theory of mind as has been
found in older groups.

The understanding of bullying held by young children and their teachers was also examined. The children held different definitions of bullying than their teachers, and were more likely to consider provoked aggression or a straight fight as bullying than their teachers.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


bullying, schools, children, teachers

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



June 2000

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

03 Jun 2020 14:31

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:31


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