Teachers’ understanding of bullying behavior in the early years

Last year in an episode of our behavior management series, Teacher met with Dr. Lesley-anne Ey from the University of South Australia to share her research on how early childhood teachers can identify problems with bullying in their own school context and use this information to develop tailored and targeted education and prevention programs. Here she is Teacher an update on new research on understanding bullying behavior by early childhood teachers.

Teachers play an important role in preventing bullying and intervening when it occurs, especially in the early years when children are more likely to rely on their teachers to help them solve their problems.

New research by Dr. However, Lesley-anne Ey of the University of South Australia and Marilyn Campbell of the Queensland University of Technology found that many early childhood teachers have difficulty identifying when a behavior is bullying and when it is cracking down on the behavior instead.

Your paper The understanding of Australian educators about bullying, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, outlines the results of an online survey conducted by 95 ECEC professionals working in Australia.

The survey assessed four elements of understanding bullying behavior by interviewing educators:

  • for a description of bullying in your own words;
  • for a description of the struggle in their own words;
  • to tick which behaviors qualify as bullying and which fight from a list provided; and,
  • to assess which scenarios from a list of 20 bullying behaviors were presented and which were not.

Characteristics of bullying

“Bullying is defined as behavior that involves repetitive and deliberate actions in order to inflict harm or discomfort to someone who cannot or does not want to defend himself due to a social or physical imbalance of power,” says Ey Teacher. ‘This definition was first mentioned by Olweus in 1994 and is widely accepted and used in the scientific literature. ‘

These three traits Ey described – intent to harm, repetition, and power difference – are key to bullying behavior. Alternatively, fighting is a singular event involving people who are equally involved and therefore have roughly equal power.

“When children argue, we usually approach both participants and train them on how to constructively resolve their differences,” says the magazine. “However, it would be unfair to further traumatize a victimized child by including them in a discussion with the child who is harassing them.”

ey told Teacher It is important that ECEC professionals are aware of the three elements of bullying that distinguish bullying behavior and fighting. “… the way teachers have to react to bullying is different from the way they have to react to fights.”

Understanding of bullying and fighting behavior

When describing bullying in their own words, only 17.7 percent of teachers included all three characteristics of bullying. Three quarters (76 percent) included repetition in their definition; 57 percent discussed the intent to do harm and 40 percent discussed a power imbalance.

Of the teachers who included certain types of bullying in their definition, physical and emotional bullying were the most common, followed by cyberbullying, verbal bullying and social bullying.

7 percent of teachers mentioned characteristics of bullying in their definitions of fighting behavior. In addition, 92 percent discussed acts of aggression, violence or conflict. A quarter (25 percent) said fighting behavior is associated with equal power, and 20 percent included the fact that fighting behavior is a single incident.

“Although teachers’ descriptions of fighting were not inaccurate, only a small number of teachers mentioned elements of combat that distinguished fighting from bullying,” write the Ey and Campbell. “Slightly more than half of the teachers referred in their definitions only to aggression, violence or conflict (52 percent), which occur in both fighting and bullying. However, only 30 percent named another aspect that specifically differentiates fighting from bullying, such as inconsistent or equal participation, and even fewer (10 percent) identified two or more differentiating aspects. ‘

Differentiate between bullying and fighting

In the list of 20 scenarios presented to teachers in the survey, five showed traditional bullying, five non-bullying personal situations, five cyberbullying scenarios, and five non-cyberbullying scenarios.

An overwhelming majority (97 percent) of teachers were able to identify the five traditional bullying scenarios and 98 percent successfully identified all cyberbullying scenarios. However, 20 percent of teachers identified a case of physical aggression, a playful joke, and a single cyber fight as bullying. “This is a cause for concern that for some teachers the word bullying has evolved to describe any aggressive behavior without distinguishing between bullying and fighting,” the authors write.

“We know that prevention is better than cure,” says Ey Teacher. “Early childhood educators should educate children about what bullying is and how bullying can be reported, which should result in educators teaching children about defenders versus bystanders. Taught early enough can reduce bullying behavior. ‘

As part of related research – Helping Early Childhood Educators Combat Bullying in Elementary School Classes by Developing Anti-Bullying Interventions and Resources Together: A Proof of Concept Study – Ey and her colleague Professor Barbara Spears of the University of South Australia have published an anti-bullying education resource for children ages five to eight.

It is available for download via the link, contains illustrated scenarios and other resources and is intended to support educators in designing and implementing an anti-bullying program tailored to their own school context.


Ey, L., & Campbell, M. (2021). The understanding of bullying by Australian educators. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. https://doi.org/10.1177/08862605211006355

Sumber : https://www.teachermagazine.com/au_en/articles/teachers-understanding-of-bullying-behaviour-in-the-early-years

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