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Weekly schoolyard bullying affects school performance, study finds

Jul 06, 2017, 10:20:12
By Herald Sun

CHILDREN who are regularly bullied at school are more likely to suffer academically, and the effect is stronger for girls.

And regular physical bullying can affect all areas of class work, leaving victims six to nine months behind peers.

A Murdoch Childrens Research Institute study of almost 1000 Victorian grade 3 pupils, aged 8-9, found one in three boys and one in four girls were frequently victims of bullying. The study, comparing self-reports of bullying to NAPLAN results, found boys who were physically picked on did less well in maths and were academically behind their peers by more than six months, and boys who experienced physical and verbal victimisation scored lower in reading tasks.

Verbal bullying alone had no measurable effect.

Girls who were physically bullied were six to nine months behind classmates across all academic performance, while those who were verbally bullied were typically six months behind in writing skills.

Institute research fellow Dr Lisa Mundy, the lead author, said the study didn’t prove that bullying caused poor academic performance.

But she said the results were important, because the mid-primary school years were crucial to long-term academic and mental health outcomes.

“This is a time when bullying starts to really peak, and it’s a time where children can start to disengage if they feel school isn’t for them,” Dr Mundy said.

“This is very predictive of if they drop out or do well in school later on.

“Given these children are in grade 3, and have only been in school three to four years, it’s a fairly significant delay compared with their classmates, to be that far behind.”

Researchers have followed the children, now in year 8, each year since the original study in a continuing effort to measure bullying’s long-term effects on academic results.

“I hope the findings provide schools and teachers with strong motivation to provide a safe environment for all students to improve a child’s wellbeing, but also improve academic outcomes,” Dr Mundy said.

The study findings were published today in the journal Academic Pediatrics.