Profiles of bullies’ and victims’ lives at school in Malta

Year: 2013

Author: Askell-Williams, Helen, Cefai, Carmel, Fabri, Francis

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Students need to feel included in their school community, apply motivational, cognitive and metacognitive strategies to their learning endeavours, negotiate relationships with teachers and peers, develop social and emotional competencies, develop positive mental health, and cope with negative influences such as bullying/harassment. For example, there are clear relationships between students’ effective use of cognitive and metacognitive strategies and academic achievement. Emotional and motivational factors are also linked to learning, such as links between self-efficacy and learning behaviours. Particularly, the support of friends and involvement in bullying can interact with students’ academic, social and emotional lives.

This paper reports a study with 281 Maltese primary and secondary students. We asked students to complete a purpose designed, multi-component questionnaire about a range of school-based influences, including their perceptions of a positive school community, social and emotional education, friendships, and coping with schoolwork. We also measured students’ involvement in bullying and their mental health status. We classified students into bully, victim, bully/victim or non-involved in bullying categories. Using standardized response scores, Visual Profiles of responses from each group were created, showing consistently more poor profiles for victims and bully/victims, and to a lesser extent for bullies, across all measured components.

This study illustrates the pervasive relationships between involvement in bullying and students’ perceptions of their functioning across many spheres of their school lives, including their perceptions of their mental health status. Although universal (whole school) interventions can broadly address an issue such as bullying in a school community, some students, such as bullies or victims, may need more differentiated intervention programs. Furthermore, this study highlights that single-issue interventions are unlikely to address the range of school-based influences that impact upon students’ social, emotional and academic functioning at school.