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Forms of Violence: **Bullying**

11/03/2011  | Child Rights International Network



What is the problem?

Since the 1970s, the harm caused by bullying has been attracting more and more attention. According to the UN Study on Violence Against Children (UNVC, 2006: 121), bullying is “distinguished from other forms of violence because it represents a pattern of behaviour rather than an isolated event”. According to the 2001/02 Health Behaviour in School aged Children (HBSC) survey in developed and transitional countries in Central and Eastern Europe, 35 per cent of schoolchildren said they had been bullied within the previous two months. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, close to half of all children are bullied at some point during their primary or secondary school education. At least ten per cent of children are bullied regularly. The Internet and mobile phones have provided new routes for bullying. International NGO, ECPAT, has produced a report on violence against children in cyberspace.

A large proportion of bullying is sexual or gender-based. Children face pressure to conform to cultural values and stereotypes of ‘appropriate’ behavior and appearance, with clear rules on what it means to be ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. Children may joke that another child is acting ‘gay’, with the underlying implication that it would be wrong if they were. “When boys call girls ‘sluts’, ‘lesbians’ or similar terms that question girls’ sexual morals or sexuality, they may be expressing resentment of girls in general or anger, frustration or jealousy,” adds the UN Study on Violence (UNVC, 2006: 122). A recent survey of 37 European countries by the International Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation found that over half of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people had experienced bullying in school. Yet bullying is not simply about gender and sexuality. In the UK, for instance, a survey of 500 children with learning disabilities, aged between eight and 19, found that eight out of 10 of these children had faced bullying at school.

While some people, almost always adults, suggest bullying is ‘just part of growing up’, research has shown that the effects can last long into adulthood, notwithstanding the immediate damage to children’s mental or physical health. Bullying is often cited as a primary cause of suicides among teenagers, as this report, about the death of a 15-year-old girl from Massachusetts, United States, who committed suicide after weeks of bullying on Facebook and at her high school, demonstrates.  

What can be done about it?

According to the UN Study, strong leadership and clear bullying plans can help stem the suffering caused. The report cautions against ‘quick fix’ interventions. For example, suspending, expelling or otherwise punishing the perpetrator, instead of helping them to understand the implications of their behaviour, and transferring that learning across the school.

The Council of Europe has produced a handbook, ‘Violence Reduction in Schools: How to Make a Difference’, written for education professionals with a view to equipping them with the necessary tools to tackle violence at all levels of schooling. Recommendations include: adopting whole-school policies, developing pupil-led strategies, and conducting school audits.

CRIN has compiled a list of online resources related to bullying, which can be found here.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly drawn attention to States’ obligations with respect to bullying. In its Concluding Observations, it has recently asked the UK, Denmark, Bangladesh and others to pay greater attention to the issue of bullying in schools. 


UN Study on Violence Against Children (UNVC) (2006). Available at: 


Country examples of progressive anti-bullying initiatives

For more resources on bullying, click here.