Lead by Flinders University Research Dr Grace Skrzypiec, this multi-country study investigates peer aggression and its impact on student wellbeing amongst middle school students in 11 countries.

Countries (Chief Investigator) involved:

  • Australia (Grace Skrzypiec)
  • China (Juzhe Xi)
  • Greece (Eleni Didaskalou)
  • India (Damanjit Sandhu)
  • Indonesia (Ulil Amri)
  • Italy (Antonella Brighi)
  • Korea (Soonjung Kwon)
  • Poland (Mirella Wyra)
  • Portugal (Beatriz Pereira)
  • Spain (Rosario Ortega-Ruiz)
  • Taiwan (Chih-Chien Yang)

 

Study background | Purpose | Research questionsMethod

 

Study background

It is apparent that in colloquial terms, the technical definition of bullying is not understood by most people.

Bullying is not typically thought of in terms of the three criteria of intentional harm, repeated action, and power imbalance between victim and bully (Smith et al., 2002; Vaillancourt et al, 2008).

A study by Skrzypiec et al., found that only four out of 33 stories about bullying provided by Punjabi adolescents (aged 12-14) to describe their experiences of bullying, met all three criteria of the technical definition of bullying.

  • Were the students referring to bullying? Or 
  • Were they referring to different forms of peer aggression?
  • Are these different forms of peer aggression differentially harmful to mental health and wellbeing?

Currently, the prime focus of peer aggression is bullying.

Defined by three concomitant criteria of intended harm, repetition and power imbalance between victim and aggressor, bullying is typically ASSUMED to be the most harmful form of peer aggression.

However, an overly narrow focus on bullying detracts from other forms of harmful peer aggression outside these criteria.

There are other types of peer aggression not being effectively addressed in policies and interventions in schools.

Attention to a fourth feature, relationships between aggressor and victim (that is whether the victim and aggressor are best friends, acquaintances, or have no relationship) has also been sparse.

Although bullying has been described as a relationship problem the nature of relationships is not generally investigated in bullying research. This is a gap in the bullying literature. In a series of focus groups by Skattebol et al. (2013) children aged 10-14 repeatedly indicated that some of their experiences of bullying were instigated by their best friend. The type of relationship between victim and aggressor is likely to influence the impact of peer aggression on mental health and wellbeing.


Purpose

The purpose of this study is to look beyond bullying and assess the harm to mental health and wellbeing of young people experiencing peer aggression in ALL its forms. The study will provide a new conceptual lens on peer aggression. It will affect policy on how schools respond to young people experiencing peer aggression in all its forms and inform the content of a safe school’s program.

To take action to reduce damage to young people’s mental health and wellbeing and create safer school environments, knowledge of what is harmful is imperative.

Using a set of four features (i.e. repetition, intent, power imbalance, and relationship), the study will: 

  • examine the different effects of a range of forms of peer aggression on mental health and wellbeing
  • will build on research that has investigated the nexus of peer aggression and bullying 
  • provide a more comprehensive picture of the effects of different forms of peer aggression on the mental health and wellbeing of victims as well as aggressors.

Research questions

  • What types of peer aggression do students experience at school?
  • How can different types of peer aggression be classified along the dimensions of intended harm, power imbalance and repetition?
  • What is the nature of the relationship between victim and aggressor?
  • What is the wellbeing of students experiencing different types of peer aggression?
  • What proportion are flourishing or languishing?
  • How resilient are they?
  • What is their global self-concept?
  • What is the well-being of students experiencing different forms of peer aggression?

Method

Student Aggression and Victimisation Questionnaire (SAVQ) (Skrzypiec, 2015)
Middle-school students completed the SAVQ to assess the prevalence of different forms of peer aggression and associated:

  • Level of harm
  • Degree of intent
  • Degree of power imbalance
  • Type of relationship
  • Self-perceived acts of bullying

Keyes’s (2006) Mental Health Continuum, to measure: 

  • Social, emotional and psychological wellbeing
  • Flourishing, languishing

Middle-school students 

In each country 600 Adolescents aged 11-16 years completed the questionnaire. In total over 6,000 students participated.