The purpose of this research was to examine the incidence and nature of bullying in primary schools in the Murrumba Downs District and, in particular, the experience of bullying for children with special learning needs. The effect of peer mediation training on the incidence and nature of bullying and on children's self-concepts was also explored. The research consisted of two studies. In Study One, 939 students in Years 4 to 7 across five schools in the Murrumba Downs District individually completed a modified version of the Bully/Victim Questionnaire used by Olweus (1989). Questions required students to report on their own and others' experiences and responses to bullying this year. Responses were examined as a whole and by year level, gender, and whether or not students had special learning needs.
In Study Two, 42 students from two Year 5 classes individually completed the Self-Description Questionnaire. These students had previously completed the Bully/Victim Questionnaire in Study One and, thus, constituted a sub-sample of the Year 5, Study One participants. From this sub-sample, 22 students volunteered to participate in a peer mediation training program based on the Cool Schools Peer Mediation program. Responses on the SDQ were examined with regard to whether or not the students had special learning needs, and whether or not they had participated in peer mediation training.
Results revealed 12.7% of the participants in Study One reported being bullied at least once a week or more often, and 7.2% of the students reported having engaged in bullying others once a week or more often. In addition, 19.8 % of the students reported both being bullied and bullying others over the course of the school term, and 2.2% of the sample reported involvement in both serious bullying and victimisation (once a week or more often) over the past term. Although there was no difference in the frequency with which boys and girls were bullied, boys reported bullying others more frequently than girls. The nature of the bullying experience was also found to differ between boys and girls. Across year levels, a significant decrease was found in the frequency of reported victimisation, but not in the frequency with which students reported bullying others.
In comparing results for children with special learning needs, findings indicated that these children had fewer friends, were bullied more frequently, and engaged in bullying others more frequently than their peers. Students with special learning needs recorded lower mean scores on all SDQ sub-scales, except for Physical Abilities. However, differences only reached significance on the Mathematics sub-scale.
Results reported from this study indicate that peer mediation training did not effect the frequency with which students reported being bullied or engaging in bullying others. However, students in schools without peer mediation training perceived significantly more students in their classes to be engaging in bullying others, compared with students in schools with peer mediation. The pre- and post- intervention design revealed no significant difference in self-concept following peer mediation training.
The findings from this research indicated that bullying in schools is a significant issue, particularly for students with special learning needs. This problem is currently not being effectively addressed through the peer mediation program used in this study. Effective intervention is required to approach this issue in schools.