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How Do Offenders Define Bullying? A Study of Adult,Young and Juvenile Male Offenders

NCJ Number
Legal and Criminological Psychology Volume: 8 Issue: 2 Dated: September 2003 Pages: 159-173
Jane L. Ireland; Carol A. Ireland
Date Published
September 2003
15 pages
This study examined how offenders in the United Kingdom define bullying, the extent to which these definitions relate to school-based researcher definitions, how the term bullying is used, and the discrete types of direct and indirect behaviors believed to represent it.
Among researchers, it is generally accepted that there are problems both in how bullying is defined and how the term itself is utilized. In addition, the definitions that offenders have of bullying have received minimal attention. This study, in the United Kingdom explored how male offenders defined bullying and how this related to school-based definitions, with a secondary aim of exploring age differences. The study sample consisted of 322 male offenders (127=adults, 95=young offenders, and 100=juvenile offenders) obtained from 2 prisons. All offenders were asked to complete a questionnaire exploring their perceptions of bullying. Twelve questions assessed the extent to which the criteria generally applied by school-based researchers were actually applied by offenders and some explored perceptions of the term bullying. Offenders were also presented with 32 items relating to discrete types of direct and indirect aggression. Results are presented on the definitions of bullying, perceptions of bullying, and behaviors included in bullying. The results indicate differences between school-based definitions of bullying and those applied by offenders, supporting the initial hypothesis. Results included: (1) over three-quarters of all offenders stated that bullying could include a single act of aggression and that victims did not have to be aggressed towards more than once before they could say they were victims; (2) the majority of offenders (52 percent) viewed bullies as only sometimes being more powerful and stronger than victims; (3) the majority of offenders stated that victims would sometimes provoke their bully; and (4) almost half of all offenders stated that bullies were not well respected by their peers. This study highlighted problems in trying to apply school-based definitions of bullying to a prison environment. Study limitations are presented and discussed. References