Abstracts: September 15th, 2008

This report from the Department for Children Schools and Families sets out findings from an investigation into the developing social worlds in late primary school. It explores the patterns in children’s general peer relationships, their closer and more significant friendships and bullying behaviours.

The study revealed three positive and two negative patterns of behaviour. 75 per cent of children studied were in positive friendship groups. These children feel supported by their friends and do not engage in bullying or experience victimization. Different patterns of positive friendship were distinguished by their numbers of close friends and levels of ‘falling out’ with friends. Within this group, 48 per cent had many friends, 18 per cent had friends, but fell out with them and 10 per cent had few friends.

One in four of the children studied belong to groups characterized by poor social relationships which have low friendship support and a much higher general prevalence of victimization and bullying compared to the other groups. Within this group 20 per cent were victims and 5 per cent bullies. Fewer than 1 per cent of children were ‘pure bullies’.

Victims and bullies have lower levels of wellbeing than children with positive friendships and are characterized by a number of difficulties, including low self-esteem and higher incidence of depression. These characteristics extend from early childhood through primary school. Bullies are particularly at risk of engaging in antisocial activities and having antisocial friends, and are more likely to suffer from later symptoms of personality disorder, particularly anger and impulsivity.

The report is available from DCSF.