14 – 18 November is Anti-Bullying Week. For this podcast, we are joined by Dr. Sînziana Oncioiu, Professor Lucy Bowes and Carolina Guzman Holst to discuss bullying in children and adolescents. Sînziana, Lucy, and Carolina are all members of the Oxford lab of Risk and Resilience, Genes and Environment, known as the oRANGE Lab, at the University of Oxford.
As the principle investigator at the oRANGE Lab, Lucy begins by highlighting the main focus of the oRANGE Lab and providing insight into the definition of bullying.
Sînziana follows by discussing how prevalent bulling is, before Lucy comments on the various roles that young people take on when bullying occurs and why it is important to understand them.
Sînziana explores what is known about the link between bullying and mental health, with Carolina then commenting on how the relationship between bullying victimisation and mental health played out during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK.
Lucy and Sînziana also discuss what makes some young people and children more likely to be targets for bullies as well as what factors make some people more likely to be perpetrators.
Carolina provides insight into the effectiveness of anti-bullying interventions and their impact on mental health, plus explores whether the current interventions are enough to support those most at risk.
With the oRANGE Lab having incorporated some innovative designs and technologies, such as virtual reality, into their studies, Lucy shares some examples and comments on what risk and protective factors have been identified by their research that help determine how a young person will fare if they’ve been bullied.
Lucy then comments on how social norms and other systemic factors influence the prevalence rates of bulling before Carolina shares what the implications are of their findings for teachers and other people in education, and also for CAMH professionals.
Furthermore, given that we know bulling is a major public mental health risk, Lucy shares what her message is to policymakers.
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Dr. Sînziana I. Oncioiu is a Calleva Centre Postdoctoral Research Associate at Magdalen College since December 2020. Her work in the oRANGE lab focuses on using secondary data to better understand the stability and change in peer victimization experiences across childhood and adolescence in relation to both risk and protective factors.
Sînziana obtained a Pharmacist degree from ‘Carol Davila’ University in Romania and a Master of Science in Public Health Epidemiology from Karolinska Institute in Sweden. She was awarded a PhD in Public Health Epidemiology from the University of Bordeaux in France in 2020. Previously she worked as a trainee for the European Commission and the European Society for Prevention Research on projects related to the prevention of substance use at European level. Sînziana has a strong interest in child and adolescent social relationships and their impact on mental health, developmental psychology, life course epidemiology, causal inference, intervention research, and the uptake of scientific evidence into policy-making. (Bio from oRANGE Lab)
Professor Lucy Bowes is a Professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology and the Principal Investigator of the oRANGE Lab. Lucy graduated with a BA Hons in Experimental Psychology from Oxford University in 2004. She was awarded a PhD in Behavioural Genetics in 2011 from the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. Lucy is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology, and was appointed as a Fellow of Magdalen College in 2014. She tutors in prelims Psychology and Part 1 Individual Differences and Psychological Disorders. Lucy has received awards from the Medical Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council, UK. Her research on school bullying has been supported by the Jacobs Foundation, and her current work on resilience to harsh, non-supportive parenting is supported by a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship.
Lucy’s research focuses on the impact of early life stress on psychological and behavioural development. In particular, Lucy has focused on the effects of victimization on young people’s adjustment and wellbeing. Her research integrates methods from social epidemiology, developmental psychology and behavioural genetics in order to understand the complex genetic and environmental influences that promote resilience to victimization and early life stress. The aim of her work is to guide intervention work by identifying protective factors that promote positive outcomes among vulnerable children. (Image and bio from oRANGE Lab)
Carolina Guzman Holst is a DPhil student in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. Her doctoral work focuses on building a contemporary model of risk and resilience for adolescent peer victimisation using longitudinal analysis and experimental design. Specifically, she is interested in understanding how social, emotional and cognitive mechanisms interact with key biological systems to predict functioning in adolescents with a history of childhood bullying. To this end, she is using virtual reality to identify specific risk and protective pathways between bullying and psychological outcomes such as depression and anxiety. Her goal is to establish mechanisms that can be used to promote resilient outcomes across the life course and inform interventions for vulnerable adolescents.
Carolina graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Brown University and a Master of Science in Psychological Research from Oxford University. Her current DPhil work forms part of the “Changing Lives” project funded by the Calleva Foundation, which seeks to understand the life-long impact of early-life adversity and identify risk and protective factors that contribute to resilience across the life-course. (Image and bio from oRANGE Lab)
[00:00:32.040] Jo Carlowe: Hello. Welcome to the In Conversation podcast series for the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, or ACAMH for short. I’m Jo Carlowe, a freelance journalist with a specialism in psychology. November the 14th sees the start of anti-bullying week, and bullying will be the focus of today’s podcast. I have with me Sînziana Oncioiu, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford and a member of the Oxford lab of Risk and Resilience, Genes and Environment, known as the oRANGE Lab.
Sinziana recently published an ACAMH topic guide on bullying. I also have with me Lucy Bowes, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford and principal investigator of the oRANGE Lab; and DPhil student Carolina Guzman Holst of the same institution.
If you’re a fan of our In Conversation series, please subscribe on your preferred streaming platform. Let us know how we did with a rating or review, and do share with friends and colleagues. Welcome, everyone. Nice to meet you all. Can you start with an introduction? Each giving a short overview of what you do.
[00:01:42.190] Professor Lucy Bowes: I’m Lucy Bowes. As you mentioned, I’m the principal investigator of the oRANGE Lab. And my research uses things like epidemiology as well as intervention science to try to understand risk and protective factors for bullying, and to support young people. And perhaps if I pass you over to Sînziana.
[00:02:00.330] Dr. Sînziana Oncioiu: Hello, and thank you for having us. I’m a postdoctoral fellow in mental health epidemiology at the University of Oxford in the oRANGE Lab. And my work so far is focused on understanding the stability and change of bullying victimization experiences during the school years, the risk factors for bullying and mental health outcomes associated with it. Currently, I am interested in bullying experience and mental health of children and adolescents with developmental language disorders.
[00:02:27.507] Carolina Guzman Holst: Hi. My name is Carolina Guzman. I’m a DPhil student in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford. And my research focus is understanding the relationship between bullying and mental health, including the role of anti-bullying interventions in targeting mental health and their ability to help the most vulnerable groups.
[00:02:45.875] Jo Carlowe: As described, you are all members of the oRANGE Lab. What is the main focus of the oRANGE Lab?
[00:02:51.835] Professor Lucy Bowes: I’m going to jump in there. So our focus is to use the best quality evidence to understand how we can support vulnerable young children and adolescents who’ve experienced adversity. And we do have a particular focus on bullying, but also other strategies for life events as well. And so our research looks to identify factors that might increase risk, but also factors that might promote resilience.
[00:03:16.115] Jo Carlowe: We all sort of assume we know what bullying is, but perhaps it would be helpful to actually give a definition.
[00:03:22.680] Professor Lucy Bowes: It’s one of those words that we use every day. But there is a research definition that we tend to use, and it was developed way back in the 1950s by Dan Olweus. And the really key parts of that, that it’s intentional harm or aggression. So there is an intention to cause harm. It’s repeated over time. So we’re not talking about one-off behaviours or fighting. And it takes place in the context of a power differential. So it makes it difficult for a young person to defend themselves if they are being bullied by another.
[00:03:52.923] Jo Carlowe: That’s really helpful. Thank you. How prevalent is bullying?
[00:03:57.120] Dr. Sînziana Oncioiu: It is not so easy, actually, to give one number, one figure to– Because it depends on how we measure it, the age group and the country and other factors. But if we are to give a global figure, on average, about one in three teenagers, age 12 to 18 years old, reports being bullied by peers at least once in the past month. And the proportion is similar for youth who reports bullying others.
This figure is based on global data aggregated by UNESCO, and it’s reproduced also in other studies like meta-analysis. For instance, in the UK, in the UNESCO report, the prevalence for the UK corresponds to the global average and was around 32% in England and 36% in Wales. But it also, for instance, depends on how to account the frequency of bullying.
When the frequency was taken into consideration, for instance, 7% of youth reported being bullied on six or more days in the past month. I think it’s important to mention that the prevalence of bullying declines with age, but some children and adolescents are being bullied over a long period of time. So I think that what the prevalence tells us, in general, is that bullying is a global problem, and it affects far too many children and adolescents. So we need to take action.
[00:05:21.180] Jo Carlowe: When bullying occurs, the young people involved take on various roles, such as perpetrators or bystanders and so on. Can you elaborate on these roles and why it’s important to understand them?
[00:05:34.850] Professor Lucy Bowes: Definitely I’m going to take this one. So there was a lot of interest in this initially by Professor Christina Salmivalli in Finland, and it was this sort of understanding that it’s actually quite rare that bullying will happen just between the children perpetrating violence and the child that’s being bullied. And, actually, it’s much more common that bullying will take place in front of an audience, and there may be other children present. And so she originally tried to divide up different potential roles of those children. So bystanders, you mentioned, is what it sounds like. So it’s often children who are present. They may not agree with bullying. Oftentimes, they actually hold anti-bullying attitudes. However, they’re present. And for whatever reason, they are unable or unwilling to support or help the young person who’s being bullied, which sounds quite damning. But I think, actually, everyone can identify a little bit with that when you see an uncomfortable behaviour it can be very challenging to stand up and do something. And oftentimes, we don’t know what would be best to do. And, actually, that’s the majority of children present in a bullying scenario, would be witnessing the bullying and perhaps not knowing what to do.
And then you have other children who may be more actively involved. So you may have reinforcers of bullying. They may be supporting the bully. They may be sharing messages, for example. And then you have a minority of children who would actively defend the young person who’s being bullied. So they are these courageous individuals that are able to step up and stand in. And it is really important, both to understand the dynamics and what roles young people may play in different situations, because these are not fixed roles, of course. They would change. But also, we know that if we teach young people about these roles, particularly these sort of bystander roles, you can actually change the social dynamics of bullying. And I know we’re going to talk a bit later about an intervention that uses changing bystander behaviours and other participant roles, such as the KiVa intervention, but these interventions can be really successful at targeting bullying, even beyond working directly with those young people involved.
And the other point I’d just like to mention is, although a lot of this research was originally conducted with face-to-face bullying that would occur at school, these roles also play out online as well. So bystander, if you witness a nasty message that’s being shared, for example, perhaps you may share it. It doesn’t mean that you’re the person who made the message or took the photo, or made the comment. However, you’re present, you’re seeing it. So these roles also seem to play out in an online context as well as an offline context.
[00:07:56.030] Jo Carlowe: What is known about the link between bullying and mental health?
[00:07:59.703] Dr. Sînziana Oncioiu: Yes. So since the first research studies in the ’70s, a lot of evidence has accumulated, particularly about the relationship between being bullied and mental health. And today we have strong evidence from very carefully designed longitudinal studies that shows that those who have been victims of bullying are more likely to present symptoms of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and self-harm.
And these symptoms, they are both happening simultaneously with the bullying experience. But also, on short term, for instance, in the one-two year after the reports of the bullying experience. We know less about the mental health of those who bully others. But emerging evidence suggest that, as a group, youth who bully others are more likely to show increased likelihood of later use of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis and hard drugs, of depression, criminal offending, and anti-social behaviours.
And may be a group that– it’s usually small in many studies, and then it was hard to study– is the group of youth who are both perpetrators and targets of bullying. In terms of mental health, they show probably the most challenging mental health symptoms. But again, I think this is a group that needs to be studied more. And, actually, Carolina’s research showed that this relationship between bullying victimization and mental health played out similarly during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK.
[00:09:24.440] Jo Carlowe: Did it go more online?
[00:09:26.660] Carolina Guzman Holst: It’s very interesting. You would assume that since schools closed, presumably most types of traditional bullying would stop. But, actually, we saw lots of differences throughout the pandemic and trajectories, but there was a significant portion who experienced peer problems and also had high levels of mental health.
[00:09:44.251] Jo Carlowe: I want to look at what makes some young people and children more likely targets for bullies, and what factors make some people more likely to be perpetrators. What can you tell us?
[00:09:56.107] Professor Lucy Bowes: I will start with saying it is complicated. And it’s never just one thing, like I think we know with everything. And although there was an early focus on individual characteristics that might predispose young people to be involved in bullying in various ways, we know that even over and above individual characteristics, like perhaps low self-esteem or depressive symptoms for young people who are bullied, or slightly more aggressive symptoms for those children doing the bullying, even if you account for those individual-level characteristics, we know that the broader social context really matters. We know that the home environment might matter, and the neighbourhood might matter. And, of course, these things interact. I think Sînziana was going to tell us a little bit more about that.
[00:10:36.015] Dr. Sînziana Oncioiu: Yes. Just to add about the individual factors that– a lot of focus has been– are symptoms, actually, of mental health problems. So, for instance, pre-existing externalizing symptoms, such as aggression, hyperactivity, anti-social behaviour, have been associated with bullying involvement, both victimization and perpetration. And pre-existing internalizing symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and social withdrawal, had been predominantly associated with increased likelihood of bullying victimization. So I would say that symptoms of mental health are not only outcomes of bullying involvement, it may also precede it.
But, as Lucy mentioned, I think bullying is embedded in social and cultural context and social norms and discrimination, for instance, may influence who is more likely to be target of bullying. Typically, we see that the prevalence rates of bullying are higher among youth with disabilities, special educational needs, or LGBTQ+. And in my own ongoing research, I find that adolescents, for instance, with language difficulties in understanding and producing spoken native language are more likely to report bullying by peers during adolescence. So, I think it’s really a complex picture, and it’s hard to pinpoint to some factors. And this factor may change according to the context.
[00:11:58.271] Jo Carlowe: We’ll look at social norms in a bit. But I want to look at interventions. What can you tell us about the effectiveness of anti-bullying interventions and their impact on mental health?
[00:12:10.240] Carolina Guzman Holst: Oh, I’ll take this question. The good news is that several anti-bullying interventions, such as KiVa, which was recently trailed in the UK, they have been successful at reducing bullying. And so even though decreases in bullying behaviours don’t usually exceed 25%, this still translates to thousands of children and adolescents being helped every year. And so, we know that some of the most effective interventions at reducing bullying are those that incorporate different components, so those that give information to parents or involve peers informally. So, using role play, or group discussions, classroom rules, those kinds of things. But even though we see our bullying behaviours decrease, we are still looking at ways to improve these interventions to tackle other aspects of well-being and mental health.
So, in a recent systematic review of anti-bullying interventions, we found that interventions are, in fact, only a tiny bit effective at improving young people’s mental health. Only one component actually stood out as being useful in reducing mental health difficulties, which was involving peers. And so, again, that includes group discussions, having peers teach or show support of anti-bullying norms. So, we still have a long way to go in terms of maximizing the effect of these interventions. But something that we can potentially do is incorporate more targeted or individualized support within this big whole-school interventions, and to help those most vulnerable children and also those more resistant cases of bullying.
[00:13:35.816] Jo Carlowe: Are the current interventions enough to support those most at risk?
[00:13:40.515] Carolina Guzman Holst: So even though these interventions are effective, and they’re effective for the majority of children, unfortunately, sometimes bullying perpetration, victimization continue despite these interventions taking place. And so this is actually something we know as the healthy context paradox, which describes how in schools with low levels of bullying, or in schools where anti-bullying interventions are taking place, that children continue to be victimized, actually fare worse in terms of their mental health than children who continue to be victimized in schools where bullying happens more frequently or that no interventions are taking place. And so, what this means is that the most vulnerable children can be at risk despite anti-bullying policies. And it’s really important that we address this problem and support these children with more targeted support.
[00:14:25.350] Jo Carlowe: How much targeted support is there? Are there anti-bullying interventions in most schools? What’s the situation?
[00:14:31.968] Carolina Guzman Holst: So it depends a lot on the country. So, if you look at a place like Finland, you see that almost 95% of their schools have an anti-bullying intervention in place, which is either KiVa or something else. But that’s not the case in other countries. And so most interventions would be whole-school interventions. So, they’re designed to take a whole-school approach, tackle all the classrooms. And then in terms of targeted support, there’s different approaches. So, you can target those who have more complex needs, or those who target just children who are victimized or who perpetrate aggression. But these are less likely to happen, and also less likely to be embedded, within a whole school intervention.
[00:15:10.605] Jo Carlowe: Thank you. I understand that the oRANGE Lab, you’ve incorporated some innovative designs and technologies, such as virtual reality, into your studies. Can you give us some examples?
[00:15:22.454] Professor Lucy Bowes: Yes. We are just starting to use different tools, like virtual reality, because they can be very useful at helping young people to understand and experience a particular situation without putting them at any increased social risk. So, for example, we’ve designed scenarios that mimic low-level verbal bullying with the idea that we can start to understand the cognitions and the behaviours that some young people may experience when they’re experiencing things like name-calling or hostile interactions with their peers. So that we can also start to understand what factors we might want to target in these individualized interventions.
We also have neutral scenarios as well so that we can look at things like paranoia as well, and which may or may not play a role for some young people. So, for example, for some young people, in an objectively neutral scenario, do they experience this as more hostile than others? And if so, what can we do to better support these young people? It’s an interesting area, and there’s a lot to like about virtual reality. Obviously, it’s something that young people would be quite keen to be involved with. It means we can co-develop the scenarios with young people. So, we’ve been into schools. We’ve talked with them about what bullying looks like in their school and what would scenarios look like to mimic the kinds of things that they would see every day.
It’s also something that we take our VR into schools. You can actually administer this intervention where young people are. And, obviously, we know from lots of mental health professionals that young people want us to come to them wherever possible. So, it’s still early days. We don’t yet have an intervention. But that gives us hope that we may be able to identify some of the factors that we’re going to need for these more personalized intervention targets.
[00:17:01.002] Jo Carlowe: Your research suggests that some bullied children are more resilient than others. What risk factors and what protective factors have been identified that help determine how a young person will fare if they’ve been bullied?
[00:17:14.949] Professor Lucy Bowes: So, some of my earlier work was looking at the individual differences in response to being bullied. Because one thing I find fascinating and important to understand is bullying is not rare, as you heard earlier. Estimates in the range of 30%. And, actually, I think it’s important to highlight that most children will be OK. They will not suffer long-term and significant mental health difficulties. And I think that message alone is important.
Unfortunately, some young people will. So, understanding that variation and identifying what predicts doing better than expected, given the level of bullying, versus what predicts being worse than expected is quite important by identifying different factors that promote resilience. My research has been particularly interested in factors in the home environment. Because although most bullying, as we study it, takes place in a school setting, or perhaps online– and, of course, most of the interventions are school-based interventions and it’s very much seen as a school problem– I know from lots of work, both my own and other researchers’, that family factors really matter.
So, in terms of risk factors for being involved in the first place, we know, for example, that young people who grew up witnessing domestic violence are more likely to perpetrate violence against others. We also know that young people growing up experiencing maltreatment are more likely to be both a victim of bullying and perpetrate bullying as well. So, we know that there are factors in the home environment that seem to predict risk, but where young people have been bullied, I was able to identify some protective factors in the home environment that predicts doing better than expected in terms of young people’s emotional and behavioural functioning.
So, particularly, that was variables like maternal warmth. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a measure of paternal warmth, but I am sure it would be the same. Though I had measures of maternal warmth. And we found that those young people who had a warmer, stronger relationship with their mother seemed to do better and had fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than we would have predicted. Also other measures of the relationship with parents, how many cognitive stimulation, how many activities they took part in with their parents at home.
And, for me, what it really highlights is, A, that the home is an important place that we need to consider in our interventions. We may want to broaden them out of the school environment. And B, we really need to support parents, because I think parents are desperate to know what to do. And we need to perhaps move away from ideas of telling kids that they need to stand up for themselves, which we know is probably harmful, particularly where there is a power differential and it’s very difficult to actually do that and to do it well. It’s unfortunately the case that some young people will not be able to do that effectively and actually might put themselves at greater risk. So it’s not that we need to teach young people to stand up or fight back necessarily. But actually providing that space for young people to talk about their experiences and supporting families is probably going to be the most helpful thing we can do in the home environment. But I think that this is a space I’d like to see much more research. There’s been very few papers, for example, looking at whether parenting interventions have any impact on bullying at school, and I would love to see more of that kind of research happening.
[00:20:07.642] Jo Carlowe: We touched on this earlier, this has to do with social norms. How do social norms and other systemic factors influence the prevalence rates of bullying? And I know this has been an area of research for you, Lucy. What can you tell us about this?
[00:20:21.392] Professor Lucy Bowes: It’s a microcosm. Where there is violence within the family, you typically see greater violence amongst the children. But we also know that the same is true in schools. So, there’s research– not by myself actually, by others– that have found that in more hierarchical settings, for example, in schools with greater hierarchy, you seem to get higher prevalence rates of bullying. Also, in schools where teachers were less well-supported and where there may be teachers themselves may be stressed, you typically saw higher rates of bullying.
At a global level, when you look at the range of bullying estimates, it’s difficult to see a clear pattern, because they do vary so much. But typically, where you have very strong social norms around gender, for example, where you see higher rates of domestic violence, you typically see slightly higher rates of bullying at school as well. And that wouldn’t be so surprising, given what we know about risk factors at home and at school. But I do think it’s important to say bullying happens everywhere. I have never seen a country where you get no bullying. I have seen countries where you have less bullying. And likewise, school, when we work with schools and we go in and do research, one thing we hear time and time again is, oh, no, we don’t have bullying in our school. And then you do a survey and teachers are often very surprised. Because, again, in every school, you often get cases and things can often be improved whether or not people are aware of it.
[00:21:32.239] Jo Carlowe: Well, let’s talk about schools and also CAMH professionals. I’m wondering what the implications are of your findings for teachers and other people in education, and also for CAMH professionals.
[00:21:43.060] Carolina Guzman Holst: Or educational professionals. As Lucy said, bullying is an issue in every school. And so even though we do have effective interventions, there will always be children who are more at risk or who will need additional support. And so, we also know that bullying is a group process, and that cases can be very complicated and tricky to navigate, because there are different dynamics involved. And so, the most important thing is to always provide a space for students to talk to someone, and to listen to them for how we can best support them. Also establishing anti-bullying policies or classroom rules, and providing information about bullying to parents, has shown to reduce bullying perpetration. Involvement of peers in anti-bullying activities can also improve their well-being as well.
Then for CAMH professionals, I think it’s important to understand that there is a risk of ongoing harm for children who are victimized and also for those who are aggressive to others. So, involvement in bullying likely means that there are some pre-existing or concurrent internalizing and externalizing factors involved too that might merit additional support and investigation. So, if there’s a history of previous bullying or persistent ongoing bullying, the risk of mental health difficulties, such as social anxiety or depression, is higher. Likewise, if a child is avoiding school or having difficulty concentrating, complaining of any somatic symptoms, or manifesting any signs of emotional or conduct difficulties, it might be that peer victimization is a problem and should be investigated.
[00:23:09.925] Jo Carlowe: Given that we know bullying is a major public mental health risk, what is your message to policymakers?
[00:23:16.486] Professor Lucy Bowes: It’s not enough that we have policies in place to ensure that every school has an anti-bullying policy. So that’s a requirement, a legal requirement, that schools need to have a policy in place, but schools need support. We actually are in a position to say we have evidence-based interventions that work. And I would say this is maybe one of the few areas where we’re looking at a clear risk factor for mental health where we actually have interventions that we’ve shown to work in systematic reviews and meta-analyses that’s a real positive. But what we need to do now is get those evidence-based interventions into schools, and we need to make them accessible and affordable for schools. We should be supporting these interventions.
The second thing is that, whilst that’s wonderful, we do know that we probably will always need that targeted support for young people. So, again, whilst we need those evidence-based anti-bullying interventions, of course, that shouldn’t be a replacement for other interventions that support the social and emotional health of young people, particularly vulnerable young people. So that would need to go hand in hand– we know that schools need help– the mental health and well-being of their young people.
Mainly it would be getting the evidence into schools and making them accessible. So, one of the things that I would talk about in a moment is our KiVa intervention. That’s just one example. We don’t know yet if it will be successful in UK schools. We need to show that. But KiVa comes with a fee. It’s a relatively small fee, but it’s still a cost. And we know that that’s really challenging for schools right now. So schools will need funding if they’re going to be able to implement things like KiVa. We know from Chris Bonell’s study of the inclusive trial that restorative justice practice seems to be really effective in secondary schools. There was a wonderful trial in schools across the UK in secondary schools that was great. And we’re starting to see more of those interventions getting into schools as well. But, again, we need training, we need practitioners, we need support for schools. That would be my biggest message to policymakers. This matters, we can do something about it, let’s start making sure it happens.
[00:25:04.272] Jo Carlowe: Are you optimistic?
[00:25:05.576] Professor Lucy Bowes: I really am. I think everyone now understands that the mental health and well-being of our young people is a priority. I think every government recognizes that. I think everyone recognizes that. And I think my message, our message, would be, this is an important risk factor. It’s one of the risk factors. And this is a risk factor that’s actually modifiable, we can do something about it. So, for me, that is really hopeful. Of course, things can always be improved. Of course, we might need more targeted support, but this is something we can do now.
[00:25:33.635] Jo Carlowe: Is there anything else in the pipeline that you would like to share today?
[00:25:37.283] Dr. Sînziana Oncioiu: So, I think we are excited that we recently received funding to use available secondary data and investigate the reason why children with developmental language disorders are more likely to be involved in bullying and have mental health problems. So, for those that maybe are not familiar with Developmental Language Disorder, this is defined as persistent language difficulties in understanding and producing spoken native language that cannot be attributed to another problem, like hearing impairment, or genetic or physical abnormality, or– but yeah, we are very excited to see what we’ll find out in the next two years about this.
[00:26:15.676] Carolina Guzman Holst: Well, I’m currently working on finishing my PhD, but also working on a study looking at what happened to bullying and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
[00:26:24.920] Professor Lucy Bowes: And for me, I’m very excited to find out if our anti-bullying intervention, if our KiVa trial, worked. It’s worked in Finland. It’s worked in Netherlands. But, obviously, every country is different. Every school systems are different. So, we will be having a data reveal for our own research team in January and the results should start trickling out from perhaps April onwards. So, I’m very excited to know how that goes. But there’s some other wonderful research going on in the oRANGE Lab so please do have a look at our website, orangelaboxford.com. We’re doing all sorts of fun things, looking at things like sibling victimization and sibling bullying, understanding stressful life events and how they might vary according to socioeconomic status, for example, in young people, work with different vulnerable groups. We have research coming out looking specifically at LGBTQ+ youth as well. So please do get in touch if you’re interested. We’d be really happy to share information and resources.
[00:27:16.281] Jo Carlowe: And finally, what take-home messages do you each have for our listeners?
[00:27:22.345] Carolina Guzman Holst: So, my take-home message is that it’s very important for people to know that bullying, unfortunately, happens a lot, in different ways. And it can happen to anyone. So, if anyone or their child is a victim of bullying, it is not their fault and they have done nothing wrong.
[00:27:37.167] Jo Carlowe: Thank you, Carolina.
[00:27:38.107] Dr. Sînziana Oncioiu: Yeah. I think that it’s also important to bear in mind that bullying involvement is a dynamic process. It can change over time and across contexts. For some, youth bullying victimization declines with time, where for others it can persist over many years across school transition and different contexts, and that children can move from one to the other. And I think that understanding the diversity of the bullying experience could help us find better solution to prevent bullying.
[00:28:06.632] Professor Lucy Bowes: Yeah. For me, I’m just going to reiterate that bullying is an issue. We can’t ignore it. It’s an important issue for children and young people. But it’s something we can do something about. At the school level, there are effective interventions. And in terms of what we can do, as parents and as guardians, we can support young people and be there for them. Listen to them. Ask questions. Ask if everything is going OK at school. And make sure that we’re all active listeners.
[00:28:31.205] Jo Carlowe: Brilliant. Thank you all so much. For more details on Dr. Sînziana Oncioiu, Professor Lucy Bowes, and Carolina Guzman Holst, please visit the ACAMH website, www.acamh.org, and Twitter @acamh. ACAMH is spelled A-C-A-M-H. And don’t forget to follow us on your preferred streaming platform. Let us know if you enjoyed the podcast with a rating or review, and do share with friends and colleagues