The first ever national study on bullying, commissioned by the Child Development Agency, has found that 60-65 percent of students have been bullied at some time in their lives. The CDA yesterday unveiled the findings of the study at its Children’s Advisory Panel’s (CAP) National Children’s Summit 2015 held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston, under the theme, “Creating Opportunities to Develop Tomorrow’s Leaders Today.”
The Study titled, Investigating the Prevalence and Impact of Peer Abuse (Bullying) on the Development of Jamaica’s Children, was funded by UNICEF and conducted by PSearch Associates Co. Limited.
Manager for Research and Development at the CDA, Randell Bailey explained that the Study was aimed at identifying and assessing the intervening variables that contribute to bullying within the school environment; developing profiles of both the bullies and victims, and using the information garnered to develop an integrated response mechanism to bring awareness to the issue at the national level. The study’s ultimate aim is to contribute to the reduction of incidences of bullying within the education system, community spaces, residential institutions and familial environments.
International organizations estimate that 200 million children and youth globally are being abused by their peers on an annual basis. However , Mr. Bailey disclosed that in addition to the nearly 65 percent of children who said they have been bullied in their lifetime, 70 percent of the 1,867 students surveyed said they were bullied over the course of 2013-14 school year. Of the number who reported ever being bullied, a total of 66.9 percent were females and 62.9 percent were males. Of the number bullied within the referenced school year 71.4 percent were females and 67.9 percent were males.
Definitions of bullying typically include four (4) elements: aggression or hostility, repetition of the negative behavior, intent to harm, and a power imbalance between perpetrator and victim. Exclusions, however, include playful and/or friendly teasing and fights/arguments between children of equal strength. Hence, the study defined bullying to be “when one student is troubled, attacked, or made fun of repeatedly by another student(s)”.
In the CDA commissioned study, of the children who report being bullied, 57.6 percent cited being teased or called names; 31.5 percent reported being hit, kicked and shoved; 28.6 percent indicate having lies told on them, and another 13.7 percent report that they were excluded or ignored. They were children who reported experiencing more than one forms of bullying whether concurrently or at different points in time.
Mr. Bailey added that “9 in 10 students said that they have seen a child being bullied, 70 percent of bullying takes place on playgrounds (whether at school or in communities), and almost 30 per cent of children say they fear attending school because of bullying.”
The Jamaican study also concurred with international studies which concluded that children who are at risk of being bullied include those who are perceived as different from their peers; perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves; depressed; anxious or have low self-esteem; less popular than others and have few friends, and those who do not get along well with others. This was echoed by the 174 teachers, and other administrative staff members surveyed at the schools in which the study was conducted.
CEO of the CDA Mrs. Rosalee Gage-Grey said the study is of critical importance to the work of the Agency. “Our function involves the care and protection of vulnerable children, and it is therefore vital for us to get a deeper understanding of the phenomena of bullying. This will inform our strategy for the operations of our own residential services, and how we partner with our stakeholders to formulate plans to address the issue in the wider society,” Mrs. Gage-Grey disclosed.
In the meantime, Sergeant Coleridge Minto, Director of Safety and Security in Schools, Ministry of Education said that Ministry takes note of the research findings, through the CDA.
“In response to the bullying in schools which was supported by the data provided by the research, the Ministry in reviewing the safety and security policy guidelines has now incorporated in the revised manual to be released in September, measures dealing with the issue of bullying,” Mr. Minto said.
Chairperson of the CDA’s Children’s Advisory Panel, Meca-Gaye Francis welcomed the study, noting “it is a very timely study because bullying is a serious issue affecting the self-esteem and development of our young people and their social relationships.”
The full findings of the Bullying Study will be made available at www.cda.gov.jm.
Contact: Prudence N. Barnes