The research project, conducted as part of a Master of Educational Psychology by student Susie Harcourt, under the supervision of Dr Vanessa Green and Chris Bowden, investigated the experiences of 26 parents whose children had been bullied at primary school. It is believed to be the first New Zealand study of its kind.
The online survey examined the actions parents took in response to their child’s experience of bullying, the effects on themselves and wider families, and their perception of the school’s response to bullying.
Every parent took action by approaching their child’s school, but the majority felt the school did not believe the extent of the bullying or take their concerns seriously.
Susie was surprised that only three of the respondents were informed of the bullying directly by the school, and says several parents felt that schools made excuses for the bullying, seemingly attempting to relieve themselves of responsibility.
Her study also revealed a range of negative effects on the participants and their families. “One mother described feeling completely useless and powerless because she couldn’t keep her child from being hurt,” says Susie.
Parents reported increased tensions within the home, including stress between partners, reduced family quality time, tension between siblings, changes in the way parents responded to their children and feelings of guilt.
“Teachers think that parents should be doing more and taking more responsibility, and families think that schools should be doing more. Everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else, so nothing is being done about it,” says Susie.
Susie believes there is a need for schools to develop and implement anti-bullying policies, in collaboration with staff, students, families and communities that outline expectations and responsibilities of all involved.
“As one parent stated, everyone should take responsibility. It is everyone’s problem.”
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand