Parent perspectives on bullying in schools

Prof Kenneth Rigby, Adjunct professor University of South Australia.

Prof Kenneth Rigby

According to a recent government-funded survey of 167 Australian parents with children attending school, 50% reported that their child had been bullied; of these 80% reported that their children had been upset by the experience; and 30% that their child had stayed away from school as a consequence (Rigby and Johnson, 2016).

Not surprisingly, the parents of bullied children tend to have a negative perspective on bullying at school.   Whilst recognising that schools are generally taking steps to educate children about bullying and have an anti-bullying policy, such parents tend to be highly critical of how schools are handling cases in which their child was involved as a victim. Only a small percentage (27%) believed that the school had been able to stop the bullying and 10% thought that the school intervention had made matters worse.

Some parents commented upon what they thought should be done to improve matters. The number of parents responding in a similar way are given below in parentheses.

Recognize bullying (including non-physical bullying) and be sensitive to the hurt that may result (10)

“Exclusion can be just as detrimental to a child’s self esteem as physical bullying and should be treated seriously.”

“There is a more subtle form of bullying where one of the cool kids ostracizes another child and the others bow to peer pressure.”

Confront the bully and apply appropriate sanctions (9)

“There are not enough consequences for the children doing the wrong thing”

“They could be given a stern warning –don’t be gentle to the bully!”

Supervise student behaviour closely (7)

“As the bullying was done in school playtime better supervision would have prevented the bullying”

“He [the bully] should have been monitored more”

Communicate with parents more adequately( 6)

“I would have liked a phone call explaining the situation to me.”

“The school did not inform me about it. Not until I rang up was any of it discussed with me”

Act promptly (5)

“My child was quite upset and completely sick of it. It should have been stopped earlier.”

“We wanted mediation between the bully and our daughter but this never happened. The bullying got bigger over time. It was left too long in our view.”

Act fairly (4)

“The school chose to ignore the situation and turn a blind eye as the bully was a very intelligent student and the school didn’t want to disadvantage her in any way.”

“My son was moved into a new class halfway through term, whilst the group of boys involved in the bullying all remained together.”

Promote the acquisition of appropriate social skills (4)

“Give the kids a chance to express themselves in a non-confronting way that might expose bullying earlier.”

“The child’s [i.e. the bully’s] anger management should have been addressed and my child given the right tools to cope with this child.”

Clearly for many parents bullying remains a serious problem that they believe can and should be addressed much more effectively. Suggestions on how this can be done are discussed in Rigby (2008).


Rigby, K. (2008). Children and bullying. How parents and educators can reduce bullying at school. Boston, Blackwell/Wiley.

Rigby, K and Johnson, K (2016). The prevalence and effectiveness of antibullying strategies employed in Australian school. Adelaide, University of South Australia.

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