Research offers new definition of bullying


A US research project has sought to establish a new definition of bullying to enable a more consistent approach to measuring and tackling the problem.

The work has sparked suggestions that UK schools could benefit from similar guidance to help them monitor and record bullying.

The new US definition states: “Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behaviour(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.” 

The Uniform Bullying Definition Project was set-up to provide a consistency of measurement across the US, which individual states can opt to use in the national surveillance surveys. The American project team included UK expert in bullying behaviour, Professor Ian Rivers from Brunel University.

The UK government has recently given £2 million to the charity BeatBullying to tackle cyber-bullying and Prof Rivers said the differences in how the US and UK deal with bullying are striking.

He explained: “There is lots of coverage around bullying but are we measuring the same thing?

“It would help to have a consistent baseline definition which would underpin work to tackle cyber-bullying and develop guidance for schools.

“Schools need guidance on what bullying is and is not, how to measure it, record it, and build interventions around knowledge of their own schools’ circumstances. We can learn a great deal from the approach taken in the US to reach a consensus and measure behaviour systematically.”

To see the research, visit



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