Short children more likely to be bullied at school

March 02, 2000

Bullying in school: are short pupils at risk? Questionnaire study in a cohort

Short children are more likely than those of average size to complain of being bullied at school, suggests research in this week's BMJ. But, say Linda Voss and Jean Mulligan from University Child Health at Southampton General Hospital, teachers report that being short does not stop short children, including girls from being bullies themselves.

The team compared two groups of teenagers, the average age of whom was 14. Ninety two of them were short for their age; 117 were of average height. The children filled in questionnaires designed to find out how often they had been bullied, and additional information was gathered from teachers, parents, and school records.

More short pupils claimed to have been bullied at some point in secondary school. Short boys were twice as likely as their taller peers to say that they had been the victims of bullying, and much more likely to say that bullying upset them. Significantly more of the short children said that bullying had started in junior school and that they were still being bullied. Although short children had as many friends as their taller peers, they tended to spend significantly more break time alone, which could be either the result or the cause of their bullying, say the authors.

Teachers also reported that significantly more short pupils were the victims of bullying. But according to parents, who reported more bullying than either the teachers or the children themselves, a lot of taller children are also bullied. Among those of average height, significantly fewer girls than boys were bullies. But short girls were as likely to be bullies as any of the boys - short or tall.


Ms Linda Voss, Child Health, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth. Email:


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