To read this content please select one of the options below:

The complexity of children’s involvement in school bullying

Elizabeth Mary Nassem (Centre for the Study of Practice and Culture in Education, Birmingham City University, Birmingham, UK)

Journal of Children's Services

ISSN: 1746-6660

Article publication date: 18 December 2017




The purpose of this paper is to examine the complexity of children’s involvement in school bullying from the child’s perspective.


A Foucauldian perspective provides a more nuanced approach than traditional understandings for examining the fluidity of power which involves “grey” areas; struggles between pupils, and pupils and teachers; and takes into account systemic factors. Data are drawn from observations, focus groups and individual interviews with children aged 10-16.


Children explained how pupils, teachers and inequalities inherent in school contributed to their involvement. Children felt coerced into reinforcing societal inequalities whereby the “vulnerable” were susceptible to victimisation and pupils can achieve status through bullying. Several working-class males who had learning difficulties felt “picked on” by their peers and teachers, and subsequently retaliated aggressively.

Research limitations/implications

Findings from this relatively small sample provide insight into children’s unique experiences and how they are produced within wider systems of knowledge which differ from traditionally accepted discourses.

Practical implications

Pupils should have an input into the development and implementation of institutional strategies to tackle bullying.

Social implications

Traditional ways of identifying “bullies” can be used to target those already marginalised whilst more sophisticated bullying is usually accepted and approved.


The complexity, fluidity and multi-faceted nature of children’s involvement is highlighted. Children discussed the maltreatment they experienced from pupils and teachers but did not realise how they may have subjected them to bullying.



Nassem, E.M. (2017), "The complexity of children’s involvement in school bullying", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 288-301.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles