Ahmad Mahdzan | Noran Fauziah | Fairy Mahdzan | TeamHardCorePavement

Bullying among Malaysian Elementary School Children

Noran Fauziah Yaakub, Ph.D.
Rajendran Nagappan, Ph.D.
Ahmad Jazimin Jusoh

Executive Summary

1. Introduction

1.1 It is acknowledged by educators and psychologists all over the world that a serious threat to the adjustment and well-being of school children is bullying by peers. It should not be considered as part of growing up or “rites of passage” in a child’s life span.

1.2 Bullying has been defined as a subset of aggressive behavior It is unprovoked in nature, it occurs repeatedly, and that the bully is stronger than the victim or perceived to be stronger. It is the intention of the bully to cause hurt to the recipient. This hurt can either be physical or psychological.

2. Objective

2.1 The overall objective of the study is to assess the extent of bully-victim problems among primary school children in the state of Perak Darul Ridzuan and to propose strategies for behaviour modification

3. Method

3.1 For the first phase of the study, the dependent variables were bullying and victims of bullying. Three demographic variables were used in the study, namely school type, gender and class. Four dimensions of self-concept were also used, viz., physical, parental, academic and moral. A global measure of academic efficacy was also used.

3.2 For the second phase of the study, selected children from the three types of schools were interviewed to solicit more information on bullying and being bullied. Head-teachers, discipline teachers and chairpersons of the parent-teacher associations were selected as respondents for the third phase of the study. They were given six open-ended questions pertaining to the concept of bullying, frequency of bullying incidents that occurred during the last 12 months in their respective schools, what types of bullying that took place, what types of children were involved in bullying, what were the characteristics of victims, and how did each school handle these bullying behaviours.

3.3 This study focused on primary school pupils from two districts, namely Kinta and Hilir Perak. The number of national and national type (Tamil and Chinese) schools is shown in Table 1. However, only 29 schools responded.

Table 1: Sampling of Schools by District

District National N Tamil N Chinese N
Hilir Perak



3.4 A 20 item instrument was developed to measure the incidence of bullying as reported by respondents. Test for reliability by using Cronbach alpha gave a value of 0.86 for the overall instrument.

3.5 Respondents were asked to answer whether they had ever been bullies or victims of bullying behaviour, or whether such behaviours occurred “once or twice”, “three or four times”, and “more than five times”, during the last four weeks of administering the instrument on them. In addition, there were also items pertaining to some background characteristics of children, such as their television viewing behaviour. There were also questions on where bullying took place, who were the bullies inside and outside school.

3.6 The items on the four dimensions of self-concept were taken from Maznah Ismail et al. (1998). These items were based on Marsh’s instrument and had been validated by Maznah et al. The reliability value for these four dimensions of self-concept were all above 0.70.

4. Findings

4.1 A total of 2528 primary school children from 29 schools participated in this study. The majority of these children came from Tamil schools, followed by National schools and finally Chinese schools. These children were from standard four, five and six classes. Slightly more than half were boys.

4.2 More than half of these children watched television between one to two hours on weekdays, while the time spent on this activity was longer on weekends.

4.3 Based on the 20 items on bullying, the largest category of children was the psychological-physical victim category (79.4%), followed by children who were involved in both types of bullying (53.2%), bully-victims of both types (49.4%), non-bullies (14.5%) and finally non-victims (8.6%).

4.4 Further analysis into sub-categories of children showed more children to be involved in psychological bullying (82.7%) compared to physical bullying (56.0%). The percentage of being victims of psychological bullying and physical bullying is about equal (85.8% for victims of psychological bullying and 85.0% for victims of physical bullying). As for children who were both bullies and victims, there were more psychological bully-victims (77.7%), while those who were physical bully-victims were 53.6%.

4.5 Two forms of psychological or indirect bullying that these children were more involved were name-calling and teasing. Fighting with other students was the most frequent form of direct or physical bullying. Threatening to hit and kick others were the least frequent of this type of direct bullying.

4.6 Results of ANOVA for both forms of bullying and victims of bullying showed significant difference according to school type. Results of post hoc analysis showed the mean score for National schools to be the highest for psychological bullying and the difference in the mean score was significantly higher than that of Chinese or Tamil schools.

4.7 As for physical bullying, the mean composite score for National schools was significantly lower than that of Chinese or Tamil schools. The mean composite score for physical bullying was highest for Chinese schools, followed by Tamil schools and National schools, in that order.

4.8 The results showed more boys to be involved in both forms of bullying as well as being victims of direct and indirect bullying.

4.9 More of standard six children were involved in psychological and physical bullying as well as being victims of both forms of bullying and the difference in the mean scores for both dimensions of bullying and victims of bullying were significantly different. The mean scores for all dimensions of bullying and victims of bullying were significantly different from one another.

4.10 A large majority (88.7%) did not feel easy looking at other children being bullied, while 11 percent admitted to having no feeling to looking at others being bullied. As for the bullies, a large majority (60%) of them felt guilty after bullying others, while about a third symphatized with the victims . Only a small minority felt great bullying others.

4.11 The results showed a high percentage of bullying occurred in the classroom (40.9%) which happened mainly before teachers came for classes (25.8%). High incidents of bullying also took place on the way back from school (23.9%). Computer labs and science labs did not witness much incidents of bullying.

4.12 Almost half of the school bullies were boys and the majority of them were older than the victims. Incidents of bullying by girls showed about 20 percent of them were involved. A small group of bullies who were younger than their victims was also present. About a third of boys admitted bullying girls.

4.13 The scenario for bullying outside the school ground was almost similar to what happened inside school, except with a slightly reduced percentage.

4.14 The mean score for academic efficacy was 64.46 and a standard deviation of 24.61. Fifty-nine percent of children put their academic efficacy at 79 and below, while 40 percent put their academic ability at above 80 percent, with 5 percent at above 95 percent. There was no significant difference in the mean scores for boys or girls.

4.15 The results showed these children to be high on two dimensions of self-concept, namely parental and moral self-concept. However, their physical and academic self-concepts were just average.

4.16 Physical self-concept was significantly different according to class at p < .05. The mean score for standard six children was significantly higher (29.03) than that of standard four children (28.24) but not significantly different from that of standard five children (28.40).

4.17 The mean score for physical self-concept was about equal for boys and girls. Results of t-test for this variable was not significantly different according to gender.

4.18 Almost three-fourths (74.8%) of respondents belonged to high category of parental self-concept, about one-fourth (24.1%) were average on this construct and only a small percentage (1.1%) came under low parental self-concept. The mean score for physical self-concept came under the high category.

4.19 Parental self-concept was significantly different according to school type. The mean score for parental self-concept was slightly higher for girls. However, the difference in the mean scores was not significant.

4.20 The results showed almost half (47.5%) of respondents belonged to high academic self-concept, about half (52.5%) were average on this construct and only a small percentage (1.8%) came under low parental self-concept. The mean score for academic self-concept came under the average category.

4.21 Academic self-concept was significantly different according to school type. However, this construct was not significantly different according to class or gender.

4.22 The results showed 60 percent of respondents belonged to high category for moral self-concept. About one-third (34.8%) were average on this construct and only a small percentage (.9%) came under low moral self-concept. The mean score for moral self-concept under the high category.

4.23 Moral self-concept was significantly different according to school type and gender. However, there was no difference for this construct according to class.

4.24 Out of 14 variables in the regression equation, 10 of them were significantly correlated with indirect bullying.

4.25 Of the 14 variables used in the equation, nine of them were significantly correlated with direct bullying. Among the significant variables were hours spent on watching television, negative moral self-concept, negative academic efficacy, gender, feeling unsafe while in school were significantly related with bullying behaviour.

4.26 Eight of the independent variables used in the regression model for being victims of indirect bullying were significant.

4.27 Eight variables in the regression model for being victims of direct bullying were significant.

4.28 During the last twelve months of the study, 40 adult respondents reported the number of bullying cases as about ten in their respective school. Twelve respondents reported no bullying cases had ever been reported in their school.

4.29 Counseling seemed to be the most popular way of handling bullying problem, followed by advice. This was followed by giving warning to those involved and contacting parents. For serious cases, the schools would contact those from higher authority or the police. Advice from their respective parent-teacher associations. For more serious cases, schools would not hesitate using the cane on the bullies.

5.0 Implications

5.1 There is a serious need for the authorities, especially the Ministry of Education, to investigate this issue further and plan on a long term basis to address this important issue. If this problem is not addressed adequately, it will bring far reaching negative consequences on the children, as reported in the literature.

5.2 The authorities, particularly the Ministry of Education, need to focus on the classrooms to make them to be safe places for children and also to provide the conducive environment in the classrooms to conduct teaching and learning process.

5.3 Teacher education programmmes, both pre-service and in-service, need to further emphasize the importance of preparing teachers to be able aware, monitor incidences of bullying, and take appropriate measures to overcome this problem.

5.4 There needs to be systematic efforts to provide the necessary support to implementers on the field to tackle this issue. The most important implementers on the field are the school administrators and teachers.

5.5 There is a need to provide ongoing professional development opportunities to further improve the abilities of school principals and teachers to handle the issue of bullying in schools.

5.6 Since this study found that the number of hours spent on watching television either on weekdays or weekends was related with both forms of bullying, there is a need to conduct further research on this aspect, especially to ascertain the relationship between the types of television programmes watched and the incidences of bullying.

5.7 Further research should be undertaken to ascertain the link, if at all there is any, between the experiences of being bullies and bully-victims and more violent behaviour in later years.

5.8. Research should also focus on how reformers and teachers could work together in formulating and implementing new policies, given the socio-political situations in the country.


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