Studying a bully’s motivation

Bullying in schools is a major issue and one researchers at Queensland’s leading mental health facility are examining closely right now.

Leading researcher at The Park Centre for Mental Health, Professor James Scott told the Queensland Times bullying among adolescents was a complicated issue and some schools managed it more effectively than others.

Prof Scott is carrying out ground-breaking research in an attempt to help schools tackle bullying.

He said there was no single explanation for why students bullied each other, but a lack of empathy was a factor.

“There are a whole lot of reasons why bullies are bullies,” Prof Scott said.

“Sometimes young people lack empathy for others. Sometimes it’s a way of socially climbing the ladder.

“Some young people who are bright will be unkind to some and not to others to climb the social hierarchy of the school.

“Sometimes it’s a replication of modelling behaviour at home learned from older siblings or parents.

“It can be young people externalising their own internal distress.

“Perhaps they feel angry themselves and don’t have the skills to deal with those emotions so they ‘act out’.”

His research showed young people who were bullied at school were at increased risk of depression and self-harm and that those risks sometimes persisted into adulthood, as a result of the bullying.

Education Queensland would not provide specific information on the number of bullying complaints at Bundamba State Secondary College, compared with other schools, saying that data “wasn’t record centrally”.


This article was originally published by The Queensland Times and features Professor James Scott, head of the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research’s Child and Youth Mental Health Research Group.

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