Peer abuse as child abuse and indications for intervention in schools

Year: 2005

Author: Healey, Jean

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Peer abuse in the form of bullying is now recognised as an endemic feature of school life and in terms of impact, outcomes and intervention requirements can be equated with other forms of child abuse. It is argued in the light of data presented here that the parallels between peer abuse and more generally accepted forms of child abuse must be recognised and addressed with some urgency. The paper discusses the types, frequency and intensity of bullying behaviour reported in high schools in NSW, and comparative data for child abuse reports for this age group. This provides a clear demonstration of the correlations of the behaviours indicating that the behaviours which are currently reported as bullying behaviours are also abusive and equally harmful. It seems evident that peer abuse fits the common descriptors of child abuse across all reported criteria. However, it is also evident that teachers currently often do not interpret the behaviours as either abusive or bullying, but as mutually aggressive interactions between peers, leaving victims unprotected and unsupported. It is suggested that some interventions currently established for dealing with bullying are inappropriate as they do not recognise that bullying is abuse. It is proposed that implementation of legislative requirements for mandatory notification by teachers of all forms of abuse should be considered as a means of intervention.