Contemporary Perspectives of Learning and Development 

Executive Summary of Bullying in Australia

Bullying in Australia is very prevalent and can be seen in pre schools and kindergarten, bullying is a repetitive aggressive behavior mean to show dominance over a week child by the stronger one leading, bullying in early ages of life interferes with sound development of the child brain and cognitive skills leading affecting a child learning skills and causing internalize problems such as self harming, anxiety , depressing etc and externalized problems such as , aggressive behavior, criminal acts, etc later in life. health and social integrations gets affected later in life teachers are needs to develop confidence in handling and managing bullying in classrooms, teachers are needed to be equips with education an knowledge of identifying bullying and applying appropriate intervene method s, preventing and managing bullying. Parents needs to provide their kind with a loving stable and caring home to they don't turn into bullies and bullied child open up to them, school boards are to make effective policies to prevent and manage bullying at school setting.

Table of Contents

Executive summary


1. Child Development Theories

1.1 Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory.

1.2 Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theorypsychologist


2. key points

3. factors contributing to bullying

3.1 Power struggles and social status

3.2 Family environment

3.3 Peers

3.4 Bystanders

3.5 Teachers

3.6 school environment Power struggles and social status

3.7 Family environment

4. Effects of bullying on a primary school students learning and development

4.1 Social development

4.2 Emotional Development

4.3 Cognitive Development

4.4 Academia

4.5 Psychosocial Consequences

4.6 Brain Functioning



Introduction to Bullying

Bullying is a very serious and pervasive issue, scrutinized by teachers, social scientists and psychologists since the 1990's (Menesini & Salmivalli, 2017).

Bullying is defined as intentions and repetitive aggressive behavior with the motive of causing emotional, physical and social injury to a person who possesses less power in comparison to the one who bullies (Australian Education Authorities 2019; Kids Helpline 2019; Australian Human Rights Commission 2012).Bullying may be covert i.e. any bullying that is not seen by an adult such as social isolation, gossiping, laughing at, or overt bullying which is characterized by acts such as kicking, punching, insulting , threatening (Platt et al., 2016). A recent study published on prevalence of covert bullying in Australia by Edith Cowan University in (Cross et al., 2009)., according to this study 55 % of students belonging to age group 9 experience bullying where as 27 % of students belonging to age group 4 had been bullied, out of this 12 % students fears that their bullies would harm them physically and only 12% of the students can comfortably inform an adult.

In 2016, Rigby and Johnson conducted a national study and found out that 16 % of students in Australia are bullied every week, harmful effects of bullying on the student are low confidence and self esteem especially during the preschool years, negative effects on health and wellbeing long term as well as short term (Rigby 1998, 2003, 2008). Anxiety and clinical depression, suicidal thoughts develop later in life (Lardier et al. 2016). These finding have concerned teachers on how to avoid and reduce bulling at schools. Bullied students also show poor performance in school, find it difficult to transition through life.

The importance of teachers' understanding of bullying

Teachers play a very crucial role in the daily lives of students, this includes teachers being able to identify bullying and respond with appropriated intervening method

Teachers’ understanding of bullying affects their decision of calling an incident as bullying and whether they respond to it or not (Boulton, 1997).

Students have reported that their teachers do not always intervene in incidents of bullying (Atlas & Pepler, 1998). Only 25 % of the teachers are reported to respond to bullying rest 75% did not respond (Ziegler & RosensteinȬManner, 1991). Teachers’ explanations for lack of intervention from their part was due to the fact that they were not sure about how to react, familiar in identifying bullying incident, labeling bullying as childhood behavior (Atlas & Pepler, 1998; Craig & Pepler, 1997).

Teachers views and understanding of bullying, importance of addressing bullying , their perception of bullying in their class, the amount of knowledge they have regarding tackling bullying , understanding their emotional responsiveness etc are some factors that determines if teachers can effectively handle bullying incidents.

According to Boulton many teachers only considered physical assaults and threatening as bullying; and did not see behaviors like social isolation, name-calling as bullying.

Townsend, Wiggins (2001) found in his research that teachers understanding of bullying, especially relation bullying was quite limited. 

When teachers are not aware of students being bullied in the classroom is a major concerning point, supported by literature (Hanish & Guerra, 2000; Newman, Murray, & Lussier, 2001).

Hence it's important that teachers have understanding of bullying in order to identify, respond and prevent bullying in classrooms, this is possible by equipping teachers with training and education regarding bulling prevention and learning various intervening techniques.

1. Child Development Theories

1.1 Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory

Urie Bronfenbrenner put forward a theory to understand child development through a series of layers.

First layer is Microsystem which includes relationship between the child and siblings, parents, school or anyone else in their surroundings.

The second layer called as the Mesosystem, which is the relationship between the child’s family and their school teachers

The third layer is Exosystem, it contains those elements which have an effect on the child indirectly, for example if a parent lost their job it would affect the child indirectly due to financial problems and stress in the family.

The fourth layer called the Macrosystem includes cultural and social beliefs such as gender norms or religious influence. (Bronfenbrenner et al, 1994).

According to the theory a child's growth is influenced and shaped by the relationships, opportunities and challenges within the social setting. The influences are Family, friends, educational institutions, culture (Bronfenbrenner et al, 1994).

1.2 Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theorypsychologist 

Lev Vygotsky introduced a learning theory according to which social interaction has a very important role to play in a child's cognitive development, according to his theory caregivers, parents, culture and peers influences development of cognitive functions of the child. It is through the interaction with others that the child understands and make out meaning of the world around him. Lev Vygotsky also indicated that caregivers, friends, parents, culture and history play a key role in development of cognitive function of a child. Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) " is crucial element of this theory according to which there is a distance between what an individual can do with help of someone else and what that individual can do without any help. With others help a child makes more sense of his environment also affects the child's skills and understanding and learning (Guitart, 2018).


2. Key Points

  • In Australia, one child out of six is bullied by another student on a weekly basis
  • A child can be physically attacked by another student who kicks, punches or pushes the victim, this behavior tends to be repetitive, damaging property of the victim, bully verbally, assault the victim by unpleasant name-calling and ridiculing. Indirectly bullying takes place by excluding from the social circle , spreading rumors and gossiping
  • Children are bullied by a student who is stronger or a group of student repeatedly,
  • Bullied children experiences depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety
  • Students who are bullies are hurting themselves due to various factors such as turmoil in the family, treated badly by parents or siblings and seeking to project out anger on other weaker students
  • Preschool students engage in physical aggressiveness, social isolation and gossiping (Vlachou, 2011; Vlachou et al., 2011).
  • Boys of age two to three exhibit aggression more than that exhibited by older boys aged three to four, for girls there is not exhibition of physical aggression (Rose et al., 2014). Two to three year old boys are more likely to become bullies (Rose et al., 2014).
  • Research shows that preschool children are capable of perceiving motives and understand intentions of others which make them capable of being bullies (Baird & Moses, 2001).
  • Preschool student's emotional and behavioral problems and their family environment specifically low socioeconomic status of the family, good motor functioning are some factors closely associated with the chances of them becoming a bully at later stage in life (Jansen, Veenstra, Ormel, Verhulst & Reijneveld, 2011).
  • In contrast, students who have financial, stable and intact families with caring and sensitive family members, shows no involvement in bullying behaviors (Jansen et al., 2011).
  • When a child experience bullying more often or is involved in bullying incident tends to imitate such behaviors and when such bullying is normalize and aggression is accepted in the social setting they are in, the child starts to develop bullying behaviors especially when they don't experience any consequences to such a behavior (Craig et al., 2000).
  • Preschool children are motivated by their spontaneity and impulsiveness and tends to display aggressive behavior even in the presence of the teacher (Vlachou et al., 2016),
  • Bullying by preschoolers can be observed by the teachers which enables teachers a timely intervention and management (Vlachou et a, 2016).
  • The most common type of bullying observed in preschoolers is physical aggressiveness, social isolation, verbal aggression (Green et al., 2008; Perren, 2000).

3. Factors Contributing to Bullying

3.1 Power Struggles and Social Status

A student's main purpose to bully is to attain a sense of power and dominance to assuage their low self confidence and feelings of helplessness (Barboza, 2009; Guerra, 2011). Adolescent boys bully so that they can show dominance over other males and to have an elevated status as a mate. When adolescent girls bully it is to reduce competition by gossiping and spreading rumors (Guerra et al., 2011).

Students who bully are stronger socially than other students have more chances of turning into bullies (Barboza et al., 2009).

3.2 Family Environment

It has been found that Parents of students who bully fails to be warm, emotionally supportive and less communicative or abusive in communication and have more of an authoritarian style (Barboza et al., 2009).

3.3 Peers

Students who bullies are in company of friends who are bullies too, when within a group bulling becomes normal and acceptable it increase the chances of students turning into bullying, popularity in the group is linked to bullying behaviors. (Napolitano et al., 2010).

3.4 Bystanders

Less intervention from bystanders or even encouraging bullying (Espelage et al., 2012)

3.5 Teachers

Teachers can have both effects of reinforcing or limiting bullying behaviors it depends on their approach, if the student perceives their teacher to be the bully who humiliate students, give harsh punishments and take their anger out on them. Several things happen in this case which supports bullying, first the student models their teachers behavior, secondly since there is a power struggle here the student turn to other student to relieve their hurt and attain a sense of power(Allen, 2010; Bibou-Nakou, Tsiantis, Assimopoulos, Chatzilambou, & Giannakopoulou, 2012).

Conversely, when teachers are supportive, compassionate, encouraging, seek to help students and helps them to find a medium to effectively express themselves, teaches students to not bully also students being bullied becomes more comfortable with reporting bullying to the teacher (Allen, 2010; Barboza, 2009).

3.6 School Setting

If the school is perceived to be unpleasant, unwelcoming and unfair with less than pleasant teachers or even high pressuring and very competitive by the student it would increase the chance of indulgence into bullying behavior by the student (Barboza, 2009; Gendron, 2011; Nansel, 2001; Williams & Guerra, 2007).

If the school environment is considered positive by the student and a "good place" where there is a sense of safety, inclusion and trust among peer- peer group and in student- teacher interaction, in such a school environment student chooses not to bully (Gendron et al., 2011).

4. Effects of Bullying on A Primary School Students Learning and Development

4.1 Social Development

Self esteem and confidence are two factors that help in the development of a child so that he/she can engage in social interaction effectively and make sense of the world around them, these two factors affects the potential of success of an individual in their life and in society, bullying lower down the level of confidence, sense of self and self esteem (Golmaryami et al, 2014). The victims experience emotional turmoil within them and find it hard to form long lasting relationships with others.

4.2 Emotional Development

Bullied preschoolers are stripped of their confidence and courage and find it hard later in life to interact effectively with others and hold meaningful conversations or successfully express themselves.

Bullying effects the personality of the child leading to shyness, forming week character, becoming a loner, outcast, introverted. Levels of resilience in bullied kid drops down and find they find it hard to face difficulties in life.

Bullied kids perceives other as danger and becomes cautious and wary of them, forms trust issue that affects their development and ultimately causes issues later in life (Fahie and Devine, 2014). Bullying negatively impacts victims social and emotion skill development

4.3 Cognitive Development

Students who experiences bullying have a high chance of developing depression, put them at risk of committing suicide later on in school. when a individual experiences such traumatising experience such as bullying in early stages of life and develops depression tends to be more susceptible to depression at later stages of life which weakens their decision forming , rational thinking skills and faces mental imbalance quite easily especially in tough situations.

4.4 Academia

Nansel et al., 2001 studied effect of bullying by recording math of students of grade 6 who experienced bullying before or during pre-schooling. The Propensity Score Matching method was used to compare their scores with that of students who did not suffer any bullying before. The results indicated negative effects on mental skills of bullied students as they obtained low scores than students not bullied. The negative relationship between academia and experiencing bullying is exhibited early on in bullied kindergartners (Kochenderfer and Ladd, 1996).

4.5 Psychosocial Consequences

Psychological problems are very commonly observed in bullied students which includes internalizing problems for e.g. anxiety, panic, depression, self harming. These problems are observed especially in girls, boy experience more of externalising problems such as substance abuse, aggression, risky behaviour even criminal behaviour. (Kidger et al., 2015).

4.6 Brain Functioning

Imaging studies have demonstrated functional differences in the brain among those individuals who were bullied in childhood (Lim et al., 2014, 2015).

Experiments on human brain scanning have shown that the prefrontal cortex gets affected due to stress through connections to hippocampus and amygdala, which are areas of the brain responsible for regulation of emotions and emotional memories (Ganzel et al., 2008).

Prefrontal cortex region is that part of the brain that have other subareas, all of which are responsible for different behavioral functioning and implicated in suppression of memories, social isolation physical and social pain, psychiatric disorders, personality, empathy (Casey and Jones, 2010; Spear, 2013).

Medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area responsible for memory and learning, decision making conflict monitory was disrupted in bullied individuals (Vaillancourt et al., 2011).

Traumatic experience such as bullying during the early years in life of an individual endures negative effects on functioning if the brain

Conclusion on Bullying in Australia

Bullying in Australia has become a national crisis, bullying has been reported even in kindergarten, negative impact on the well being, development and learning of pre-school students, is one of the serious issues of bullying. It becomes the responsibility of the education and school board, teachers and parents to develop strategies and to build a society which actively takes responsibility for sensitizing and developing strategies to demolish bullying. A bullied child especially covert bullying tends to talk to their parents than tell their teachers. Teachers are required to build trust and be approachable, being a just role model by fair use of power.

Teachers are not always equipped with the right training to identify and intervene bullying, some teachers are not able to perceive the severity of the incident and might even hold the victim responsible. An important component is to empower teachers with the right training to prevent and handle bullying. Learning of appropriate intervening methods like the Shared Concern method and Support Group Method and how to apply them is important. The school board have a huge role to play in order to minimize bullying. Schools should encourage positive interaction strategies by the school principle take all incidents of bullying seriously, children should be supervised while playing together, application of disciplinary action towards bullies.

Children turn into bullies when they experience harsh family environment, where there is aggression, they think that it is normal and accepted, also when not treated well at home. It is parent's duty to provide warmth, love and safe family environment to their children so they don’t become bullies. Parents of a bullied child should get involved by checking in on schools bullying policies, talking to the teacher, talking to the bully's family to develop a better way to handle the situation. Vygotsky's Sociocultural they says social interaction like that with parents , teachers and peers influences development of cognitive functions of the child hence in order to insure a successful development of a child, positive interactions need to be encourages at schools with teachers and other children.

References for Bullying in Australia

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Remember, at the center of any academic work, lies clarity and evidence. Should you need further assistance, do look up to our Early Childhood Assignment Help

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