Impact of Bullying on Girls in Secondary Schools

Academic Paper, 2020

13 Pages, Grade: A

Difrine Madara (Author)



Research Aims, Objectives and Question

Introduction and Rationale

Theoretical Framework and Literature Review


Data Analysis, Findings, and Discussion

Reflection on the Pilot Study


Research Aims, Objectives and Question

The primary aim of this study is to explain effect of bullying on girls in secondary schools. To achieve this aim, it is important to acknowledge that bullying is understood differently among different groups of people especially among students. For instance, what one person may consider to be bullying could be considered a normal behavior by another person. Due to this, it is important to gather data from a wide range of sources and large samples to understand the extent of impact of bullying on girl students. Meanwhile, the study shall also examine the social interaction patterns which are affected by bullying in secondary schools. Hence, the researcher intended to fulfill the following study specific objectives:

i. To explore the perception of bullying among girls in secondary schools
ii. To assess how bullying affects girls in secondary schools physically, mentally and socially

In general, the researcher’s primary goal was to answer the following research question: How does bullying impact on girls in secondary schools?

Introduction and Rationale

Bullying and harassment are common issues in many secondary schools in the United Kingdom. In fact, for many years, bullying was viewed as common feature in schools and was overlooked as a threat to students (Canty et al., 2016). In some societies, it was believed that bullying is one of the developmental stages that young people must get over. However, considerable number of people often fails to get over the personal trauma those results from bullying. Forsberg, Thornberg and Samuelsson (2014) showed that the impact of bullying in schools can be seen even in adults at workplace, homes and community. Though bullying are not limited to schools, this paper focuses on secondary schools as it is the most appropriate place to actively intervene. Teachers, counselors, students and administrators can work together in designing the most effective anti-bullying strategies within a school setting than outside. Here, students can be supported and educated to end bullying behavior directly and indirectly thus breaking the bullying cycle which could otherwise impact them in their adult lives (Horton, 2011). Nevertheless, one must understand how bullying is perceived by all stakeholders and its effects on the student population. In this research, the author explores how bullying impact on girls in secondary schools.

Around the world, there have been many cases where students took their own lives or even lives of others as a result of bullying. In these cases, bullying made the students to feel unwanted and neglected. Reflecting on the 1999 Columbine High School where two boys murdered 13 students, studies revealed that such schoolyard massacres are outcomes of negative student social environment which can be facilitated by bullying. In the case of Columbine High School, the killers were loners and were often subject of harassment from their peers (Forsberg, Thornberg, & Samuelsson, 2014). Among girls, emotional kind of bullying is relatively common leaving emotional scars which can adversely affect their relationships in the future and how they respond when they are around aggressive peers. This paper therefore selectively reviews past literature on bullying of girls by their peers in secondary schools and explain the effects bullying has had on those young women. The rest of the paper is divided into literature review, findings and discussion and lastly reflection on the study.

Theoretical Framework and Literature Review

Bullying is a pervasive problem in the UK education system though it remains difficult to identify incidents which can be considered bullying as the definition of the term varies from school to school. Even in research, scholars disagree on what should be the universal definition of bullying (Karres, 2004). In one study, bullying was defined as a situation where a student is repeatedly exposed to negative actions from other students. These negative actions are intentionally inflicted to cause discomfort either verbally or physically and sometimes lead to injuries. Based on this definition, female students who are only exposed to aggressive behavior once should not be considered to have suffered bullying. Furthermore, some students find themselves exposed to emotional abuses which do not fall within the scope of the definition. Though there is not legal definition of bullying in the UK, some studies adopted the definition, “bullying is physical or verbal aggression that is repeated over a period and, in contrast to meanness, involves an imbalance of power” (Canty et al., 2016, p. 52). Based on this definition, bullying encompasses actions such as threatening the person, spreading rumors, verbal attacks, physical attacks and exclusion of someone from a group on purpose among others.

Burns et al (2008) showed that there is a significant difference in incidences of bullying between sexes largely due to the fact that sex differences become more conspicuous at the beginning of secondary school. In secondary schools, studies showed that the number of girls who suffers physical bullying considerably decline. At this point, more girls experience emotional or verbal bullying such as spreading rumours about them. Karres (2004) indicated that female bullies were more likely to become malicious or tease other girls indirectly thus causing pain to them socially and emotionally. As a result, female victims define bullying differently after joining secondary school. They perceive bullying to encompass negative actions they view as most harmful to themselves and their peers. A 2002 study at Keele University on a large group of female and male students, the researchers found marked differences between methods of bullying that affected male and female students (Land, 2003). Considerable number of female students cited being called names or laughed at by other girls as bullying. They also identified rumours circulated by other students or forced to do certain things against their will. For female students, bullying does not have to include direct physical actions. Similarly, Bjereld (2018) suggested that young women use actions such as gossiping or becoming friends with someone else to dictate the behavior of their peers through bullying.

Bullies often cite race, gender, religion, class, fashion sense, attitudes at school and deviation from social norms as the most common reasons for bullying. According to Volk, Veenstra and Espelage (2017), majority of the respondents indicated that children that work hard at school are often targeted than those in early secondary school years. In many cases, bullies do not value academic success or is not capable of achieving similar success as the victim thus chooses to bully them when they are successful at school. The bully wants to exert authority to their victims that they are superior. Boulton, Trueman and Flemington (2002) indicated that upper class students tend to bully their lower class counterparts to gain recognition among their peers for their wealth. Volk, Veenstra and Espelage (2017) identified home environment factors to have the potential to fuel a child’s need to bully. For example, a girl whose parents shows little or no concern to their school or social life will often bully girls whose parents are involved in social life to prove that their family structure are more desirable. Furthermore, desire for social status within school can make children to adopt a more aggressive behavior (Wiseman, 2002). Regardless of the form of bullying, it is evident that it has significant impact on the child’s academic and personal life outcomes.


Due to COVID-19 impacts on movements and interactions, it was difficult to conduct a primary research. However, the availability of several past studies on the topic enticed the research to conduct a qualitative secondary research. Qualitative studies follow an interpretive research philosophy which argues that social phenomena such as bullying can be understood by studying people’s beliefs, norms and values (Punch & Oancea, 2014). In this regard, qualitative method is appropriate as it provide important insights from different peoples on the effect of bullying on girls. Given the exploratory aim of examining how bullying affects girls in secondary schools, the selected secondary data sources must be characterized by different informants expressing their views freely without unnecessary pre-guidance. In this regard, the appropriate secondary sources for the current research should include those that adopt interviews, focus group discussions, open-ended and semi-structured questionnaires and controlled experiments as methods of data collection. The secondary data were analysed on a grounded theory approach. Grounded theory approach is used as it is the most appropriate method designed to explore social psychological processes such as bullying and different perspectives of bullies and victims (Khan et al., 2003).

Systematic review strategy was used to identify and analyse the relevant data sources. During the formulation of the scope of the review, the researcher considered participants, interventions, comparators, outcomes and study designs (PICOS) used in the sources (Punch & Oancea, 2014). This strategy assisted the researcher in clear delineation and compare and summarise various studies. The review also considered the reliability and quality of the sources, methods of results presentation and their implication for research and practice. Though locating and retrieving relevant literature the topic was challenging, it is important to note that the success of the systematic literature lied on the thoroughness of the source selection process. Before commencing the source selection process, systematic search strategy was established based on the five steps highlighted in the Khan et al (2003). Most importantly, a plan was developed on how to answer the research question: How does bullying impact on girls in secondary schools? The plan defined the scope of the search, thoroughness and time available. The aim of the plan was to ensure comprehensive, thorough and objective answers are found for the question.

Based on the research topic and questions, the researcher adopted two phrases i.e. ‘effects of bullying on female students’ and ‘effect of bullying in secondary school’ as search terms. These search terms were used as they were broad enough to capture all the relevant data needed for the study and narrow enough to eliminate extraneous literature from being included (Khan et al., 2003). The researcher found more than 200 results from the search. The main challenge was therefore to identify the studies which were relevant for the topic of interest and their importance in answering the research question. To address this challenge, the researcher developed an inclusion and exclusion criteria. In these criteria, the secondary sources to be included in the study were books and peer-reviewed articles published after 2000. The sources must focus on bullying of girls in secondary schools. From the inclusion/exclusion criteria, the researcher settled on 10 peer-reviewed articles and related books (Bassot, 2020). The selected sources were analysed using narrative analysis process and results presented in the following section.

Data Analysis, Findings, and Discussion

Since most bullying incidents are perpetrated by fellow students within the school, it is no coincidence that the victims usually experience difficulties within the school environment. Volk, Veenstra and Espelage (2017) indicated that students who are often bullied are more likely to experience decline in academic performance, act out or commit truancy. As bullies are school mates, the girls may also develop fear of the school environment. Canty et al (2016) linked frequent bullying to school attrition and absenteeism. Similarly, Forsberg, Thornberg and Samuelsson (2014) indicated that the presence of bullies or group of bullies at school leads to creation of a climate of fear and intimidation for various victims thus difficulties in trying to focus on classroom tasks or become less tolerant to the idea of going to school. Karres (2004) showed that at least 20 percent of victims of bullies stay from certain spots within the school while 8 percent decline to join some school-related events altogether. In relation to academic success, some victims of bullying narrated that completion of some assignments can make them attractive to bullies while more than 40 percent of victims fear participation in class discussions. The fear of speaking in classroom is even greater among girls than boys as girls tend to be teased for every comment or error they make in front of the class.

Consequently, victims of bullying may seek more severe and permanent methods of escape out of their school environments. Female students tend to harm themselves or even go to the extreme of committing suicide to silently voice their sadness and anger (Boulton, Trueman & Flemington, 2002). The presence of a bully at school may not only make the young woman fear school environment but also the entire social world. Since these girls feel lonely at school and in their communities, they lack the necessary base of peer advocates who can support them. In this regard, they may feel that nobody will miss them if they disappeared from school or the social world. Horton (2011) reported that girls who are bullied tend to be suicidal as they feel no one can help them with their aggressive female peers. The study acknowledged that for a young girl, having a complete and happy social life is very vital factor in their development and self contentment. A girl who is bullied cannot lead a complete and happy social life thus finds her depression (Forsberg, Thornberg, & Samuelsson, 2014). Depression can sometimes result in the girl cutting herself, adopting eating disorder or even considering suicide.


Excerpt out of 13 pages


Impact of Bullying on Girls in Secondary Schools
Kenyatta University
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ISBN (Book)
impact, bullying, girls, secondary, schools
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Difrine Madara (Author), 2020, Impact of Bullying on Girls in Secondary Schools, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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