Research: Bullying and its impact (schools)

New Zealand teens and digital harm: Statistical insights into experiences, impact and response

Netsafe. (2018, June). 

The study focuses on the prevalence of New Zealand teens’ experiences with a range of unwanted digital communications in the previous year and the impact these experiences had on them, both emotionally and in carrying out everyday life activities. It also describes teens’ responses, the effectiveness of their coping actions, and to who they would turn for help in the future. The study reveals distinctive differences regarding experiences of harm and/or distress through unwanted digital communications among different sub-groups of the population surveyed. More noticeable are the varying experiences in the context of gender, with girls being more likely to experience disruptions in their everyday life activities and an emotional toll because of unwanted digital communications.

Self-harm, suicidal behaviours, and cyberbullying in children and young people: Systematic review

John, A., Glendenning, A. C., & Marchant, A. et al. (2018, April). Journal of Medical Internet Research, 20(4), e129.

Victims of cyberbullying have a greater risk of both self-harm and suicidal behaviours and to a less extent, perpetrators of cyberbullying are at risk of suicidal behaviours and suicidal ideation when compared with non-perpetrators. Policy makers and schools should prioritise the inclusion of cyberbullying involvement in programmes to prevent traditional bullying. Type of cyberbullying involvement, frequency and gender should be assessed in future studies.

Education matters to me: Emotional wellbeing

(2018, March). ‘Education matters to me’ series. Wellington: Children’s Commissioner.

These reports support the Education matters to me: Key insights report published in January 2018. The reports are based on responses to an online survey and face-to-face interviews with children and young people, who said when bullying happens they need to know it will be dealt with and they will be kept safe. For many rangatahi at secondary school, bullying and racism remain in the top ten things most frequently identified as something they would change if they could. 

Read the other reports.

Parents/Caregivers’ Survey

(2017, August). Wellington: HPS National Leadership and Coordination Service, Cognition Education and Ministry of Health.

The National Leadership and Coordination Service commissioned a market research company to conduct a national parents’ survey to find out what parents worry about. The key findings were:

  • The physical and emotional health and wellbeing of children is an area of great concern.
  • There is significantly higher concern among non-Europeans and low decile parents.
  • Parents recognise the efforts schools are making but many struggle to define specific initiatives or impacts outside physical activity and nutrition. Importantly, initiatives to address mental wellbeing are not well known.

Child and youth voices on bullying in Aotearoa: Engaging children and young people in matters that affect them

(2017, May). Wellington: Children’s Commissioner.

The perspectives of children and young people range from: strong ideas on how to change culture and combat bullying; to hopeless feelings that it is inevitable. They also have varying perspectives on the causes and impacts of bullying. Some children and young people are empathetic towards those who bully, knowing they have difficult lives. Many want greater support for victims, to help them, and for everyone to play a role to stop the bullying.

New Zealand’s school climate for learning. What we know from TIMSS 2014/151 

(2017). Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Even though most students felt safe at school, they experienced bullying behaviours at school more frequently than students in many of the other participating countries. Compared to 2010/11, there was a decrease in the proportion of Year 5 students experiencing some of the behaviours such as being made fun of or called names, being hit or hurt by other student(s), or having something stolen from them. However, compared to the previous cycle, more Year 9 students reported experiencing the individual bullying behaviours at school. 

PISA 2015 New Zealand students’ wellbeing report 

(2017, April). Wellington: Ministry of Education.

The PISA results help grow our understanding of students’ experiences of bullying behaviours. The majority of New Zealand students reported they ‘only occasionally or never’ experienced any form of bullying at school. However, just over a quarter experienced at least one type of bullying a ‘few times a month’ or more. On the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ‘Exposure to Bullying’ index, New Zealand had the second highest level of students’ reports of bullying across countries taking part in PISA 2015.

2017 Internet research

Charitable Trust Internet NZ's 2017 annual survey of Kiwi's attitudes to the internet found 74% of New Zealanders are concerned about cyber-bullying.

World Children's Day study 2017: New Zealand Country 

(2017). Unicef.

Data from this survey released for Universal Children's Day 2017 shows 89% of New Zealand youth, aged between 9 to 18 years, fret about poverty and a whopping 93% worry a lot, or sometimes, about bullying.

Growing Up in New Zealand: A longitudinal study of New Zealand children and their families. Now We Are Four: Describing the preschool years 

Morton, S.M.B, Grant, C.C., & Berry, S.D. et al. (2017). Auckland: University of Auckland.

Shows a concerning number of 4-year-olds have dealt with bullying on a regular basis. The report's researchers found bullying behaviour started early and was a frequent and persistent experience for some. For around one in ten children, being bullied or picked on had been a part of life since they were two years old. Just over a third of children had been bullied or picked on by other children at some stage by the time they were four.

Exposure to school bullying and psychological health in young adulthood: A prospective 10-year follow-up study

Östberg, V., Modin, B., & Låftman, S. B. (2018). Journal of School Violence, 17(2), 194-209.

At ages 10–18 a clear cross-sectional association was found for both girls and boys. Among girls, exposure to bullying also predicted psychological complaints 10 years later, at ages 20–28. This association was not explained by socioeconomic circumstances, neither in adolescence nor in young adulthood. Instead, it can partly be understood as victimization, among adolescent girls, being associated with negative self-image and psychological health as well as with deficits in social resources more generally.

New Zealand teens' digital profile: A factsheet

Pacheo, E., & Melhuish, N. (2018, February). Netsafe.

The fact sheet presents findings regarding New Zealand teens’ use, and attitudes towards, digital technologies and online safety. These findings are part of a larger quantitative study about experiences of risks and harm online. The study is led by Netsafe in partnership with the Ministry for Women. The factsheet provides government agencies with evidence-based insights that can inform policy development and support in favour of New Zealand’s young people.

Making a difference to student wellbeing

Lawes, E., & Boyd, S. (2017). Wellington: NZCER

The authors used Wellbeing@School survey data. This data was provided by 400 New Zealand schools from 2013 to 2016 to assess what the data could tell us about the effective components of a Whole School Approach. They focused on all students, as well as Māori and Pasifika students.

Insights into digital harm: The online lives of New Zealand girls and boys

(2017, November). New Zealand: Ministry for Women and Netsafe.

This research is the first of its kind in New Zealand to investigate gendered differences in online harm from the point of view of girls and boys. It establishes a gendered evidence base about digital harm experienced by young people in New Zealand.

A familiar face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents

(2017, November). New York, US: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The report presents current data on four specific forms of violence – violent discipline and exposure to domestic abuse during early childhood, violence at school, violent deaths among adolescents, and sexual violence in childhood and adolescence. They note 35 per cent of New Zealand children aged 13–15 reported being bullied monthly.

PISA 2015 Results (Volume III): Students’ Wellbeing 

OECD. (2017). Paris: PISA, OECD Publishing. Chapter 8: Bullying 133-147.

Fifteen-year-olds in New Zealand reported the second-highest rate of bullying out of 51 countries – a finding from the OECD's latest three-yearly survey as part of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) carried out in 2015. Survey answers from New Zealand showed just over a quarter of students reported being subject to some type of bullying at least a few times a month.

Predictors of workplace bullying and cyber-bullying in New Zealand

Gardner, D., O'Driscoll, M., & Cooper-Thomas, H.D., et al. (2016). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(5), 448, p 1-14.

Rates of cyber-bullying (CB) were lower than those of workplace bullying (WB) and very few participants reported experiencing CB without also experiencing WB. Both forms of bullying were associated with poorer work environments, indicating that, where bullying is occurring, the focus should be on organisational systems and processes.

Exposure to violence, a risk for suicide in youths and young adults: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies

Castellvi, P., Miranda-Mendizábal, A., & Parés-Badell, O., et al. (2016, December 20). Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, advance online publication.

Early exposure to interpersonal violence confers a risk of suicide attempts and particularly suicide death in youths and young adults. Includes data from the Christchurch Health and Development Study and the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, along with data from other longitudinal studies from around the world.

CensusAtSchool bullying data

(2015, June). Census at School.

Students aged between 9 and 18 have reported that verbal abuse is the biggest bullying problem in schools.

Bullying victimisation in adolescence and psychotic symptomatology in adulthood: Evidence from a 35-year study

Boden, J.M., van Stockum, S., Horwood, L.J., &., Fergusson, D.M. (2016, January 16). Psychological Medicine, 25,1-10, epub ahead of print.

The association between bullying victimisation in adolescence and psychotic symptomatology in adulthood could be largely explained by childhood behavioural problems, and exposure to sexual abuse in childhood. The results suggest that bullying victimisation was unlikely to have been a cause of adult psychotic symptoms, but bullying victimisation remained a risk marker for these symptoms.

Bystander intervention, bullying, and victimisation: A multilevel analysis of New Zealand high schools 

Denny, S. et al. (2015). Journal of School Violence, 14(3), 245-272.

Results indicated that a total of 6% of students report being bullied weekly or more often and 5% of students reported bullying other students at least weekly. Results of multilevel analyses suggested that schools characterised by students taking action to stop bullying were associated with less victimisation and less reported bullying among students. In contrast, in schools where students reported teachers take action to stop bullying, there was no decline in victimisation or bullying.  Overall, these findings support whole-school approaches that aid students to take action to stop bullying.

Bullying in childhood, externalising behaviours, and adult offending: Evidence from a 30-year study

Fergusson, D.M., Boden, J.M., & Horwood, L.J. (2014). Journal of School Violence, 13(1), 146-164.

The study shows that while the majority of the association between childhood bullying and adult offending could be explained by confounding factors including childhood externalising behaviour, there was evidence for direct linkages from bullying to violent offending and arrest/conviction. There was little evidence to suggest mediation of the associations. The results suggest that bullying prevention requires interventions aimed specifically at bullying behaviour.

Incidence of bullying and victimisation among adolescents in New Zealand

Kljakovic, M., Hunt, C., & Jose, P.E. (2015, September). New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 44(2), 57-67.

The overall rates of bullying and victimisation appeared elevated relative to international samples but traditional school-based bullying was more frequent than text or internet bullying. No gender differences were found. Differences for ethnic group differences were found only for specific types of bullying, with Māori students reporting more traditional school and text bullying, and more text-based victimisation than other ethnic groups.

Is bullying bad for your health? The consequences of bullying perpetration and victimization in childhood on health behaviors in adulthood

Stuart, J., & Jose, P.E. (2014). Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 6(3), 185-195.

Results indicate that bullying in childhood is associated with negative health outcomes much later in life. Being both a perpetrator and victim of bullying was associated with worse health outcomes than either being a bully, victim, or not being involved. These results indicate that there are long-lasting implications for individuals involved in bullying almost four decades later in life.

Association of different forms of bullying victimisation with adolescents’ psychological distress and reduced emotional wellbeing

Thomas, H.J., et al. (2015). Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, online first.

Different forms of bullying victimisation were independently associated with psychological distress and reduced emotional wellbeing. In particular, frequent and upsetting social exclusion requires a targeted and measured response by school communities and health practitioners.

Bullying by peers in childhood and effects on psychopathology, suicidality, and criminality in adulthood

Klomek, A.B., Sourander, A., & Elonheimo, H. (2015, October). Lancet Psychiatry, 2(10), 930–941.

Victims are at a high risk of internalising disorders. Bullies seem to be at risk of later externalising disorders and criminality, mainly violent crime and illicit drug misuse. A dose effect exists in which frequent bullying involvement in childhood is most strongly associated with adult adversities.

Bullying and suicidal ideation and behaviours: A meta-analysis

Holt, M.K., et al. (2015, January). Pediatrics, 135(2)

Findings demonstrated that involvement in bullying in any capacity is associated with suicidal ideation and behaviour. 

Peer victimisation in Fifth Grade and health in Tenth Grade

Bogart, L.M., et al. (2014, February 17). Pediatrics, epub ahead of print.

This study examined longitudinal associations of bullying with mental and physical health from elementary to high school, comparing effects of different bullying histories. Bullying was associated with worse mental and physical health, greater depression symptoms and lower self-worth over time.

Bullying in the digital age: A critical review and meta-analysis of cyberbullying research among youth

Kowalski, R.M., et al. (2014, February 10). Psychological Bulletin, epub ahead of print.

Mixed effects meta-analysis results indicate that among the strongest associations with cyberbullying perpetration were normative beliefs about aggression and moral disengagement, and the strongest associations with cyberbullying victimisation were stress and suicidal ideation.

Bullying in New Zealand schools: A final report

Green, V.A., Harcourt, S., Mattioni, L., & Prior, T. (2013). Victoria University of Wellington.

In the first New Zealand study of its kind, a Victoria University researcher has found that 94% of the school staff she surveyed have seen bullying in their school. Nearly half of those who took part in the survey said instances of verbal bullying were being brought to their attention weekly. Other findings were that 68% of respondents believe bullying begins between the preschool years and the ages of seven or eight, while just under half the respondents say that cyberbullying is mainly conducted by 11 to 14 year olds. Over half of those who took part say girls are carrying out most of the cyberbullying.

Brief Report: Text bullying and traditional bullying among New Zealand secondary school students

Marsh, L., et al. (2010). Journal of Adolescence, 33(1), 237-240.

A self-report online survey assessed the frequency of bullying among 1169 15-year-old secondary students, for five categories of bullying: text messages, rumours, exclusion, teasing and physical bullying. Results show in the school year assessed 47% reported having been bullied sometimes or often and 37% reported bullying others; 11% reported being text bullied, while 7% reported text bullying others. Students involved in text bullying were significantly more likely to be involved in traditional forms of bullying and were less likely to feel safe at school. 

The association of suicide and bullying in childhood to young adulthood: A review of cross-sectional and longitudinal research findings

Brunstein Klomek, A., Sourander, A., & Gould, M. (2010, May). Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(5),282-8.

Cross-sectional findings indicate that there is an increased risk of suicidal ideation and/or suicide attempts associated with bullying behaviour and cyberbullying.

Association between bullying and mental health status in New Zealand adolescents

Coggan, C., et al. (2003). The International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 5(1), 16-23.

Analysis showed that bullied students had lower self-esteem, suffered more from depression, stress and hopelessness, and were more likely to think about and attempt self-harm and suicide than others. Our findings suggest that young people in New Zealand secondary schools are experiencing significant levels of mental distress.

“Being a part of a national movement towards positive change is such a powerful feeling. That we are all working towards making young people feel good about who they are, right across New Zealand.”

Pink Shirt Day participant