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http://yas.sagepub.com School Bullying Among Hong Kong Chinese Primary Schoolchildren


Dennis S. W. Wong, David P. P. Lok, T. Wing Lo and Stephen K. Ma Youth Society 2008; 40; 35 originally published online Dec 4, 2007; DOI: 10.1177/0044118X07310134 The online version of this article can be found at: http://yas.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/40/1/35

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School Bullying Among Hong Kong Chinese Primary Schoolchildren


Dennis S. W. Wong David P. P. Lok T. Wing Lo Stephen K. Ma
City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

Youth & Society Volume 40 Number 1 September 2008 35-54 2008 Sage Publications 10.1177/0044118X07310134 http://yas.sagepub.com hosted at http://online.sagepub.com

The first comprehensive survey of 7,025 Chinese primary schoolchildren found that 24% of respondents reported that they had sometimes physically bullied another child. When children observed school bullying, 56% said they immediately reported it to their teachers. Another 20% tried to stop the bullying by approaching the bullies. The study also identified factors associated with bullying. These included coming from an adverse psychosocial background and having more contact with violent values through association with deviant peers and exposure to the mass media. On the basis of the research findings, potential methods of bullying intervention are discussed. Keywords: bullying; primary school; Chinese

chool bullying has received a great deal of attention in developmental psychopathology, educational, and criminological studies over the past 20 years. The evidence indicates that school bullying has a variety of negative consequences for both bullies and victims (Khatri, Kupersmidt, & Patterson, 2000; Olweus, 1978; Smith & Brain, 2000). Recent systematic studies date back to the late 1970s. In 1978, Olweus published the English version of his book Aggression in the Schools: Bullies and Whipping Boys (originally published in Swedish in 1973); this marked the beginning of a stream of research on bullying. Researchers have focused on various aspects of the social phenomenon, including the incidence and nature of bullying (Besag, 1989; Olweus, 1978; Rigby, 1996); characteristics of victims (Eslea & Rees,
Authors Note: Please address correspondence to Dennis S. W. Wong, Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong, Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China; e-mail: dennis.wong@cityu.edu.hk. 35
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2001; Rigby, 1999); attitudes toward, and perceptions of, bullying (Boulton, 1997); the effects of bullying (Borg, 1998; Kumpulainen, Rasanen, & Puura, 2001); the views of teachers (Olweus, 1994); bullying in schools and its relation to other aspects of antisocial behavior (Baldry & Farrington, 2000; Farrington, 1993); and reactions to bullying (Arora, 1994; Smith, Pepler, & Rigby, 2004; Smith & Thompson, 1991). There have been a few studies on bullying among pupils in Hong Kong. These studies have focused on the causes or predictors of delinquency (Cheung & Ng, 1988); the nature and extent of youth deviant behaviors in local districts (Wong, 1999); the process of deviation; and the types of unruly and delinquent behavior of pupils in secondary schools (Wong, 1999). Most relevant to this study are surveys on unruly and delinquent behavior of pupils in secondary schools that were carried out in response to the upsurge of juvenile crimes in the late 1970s. Under the Fight Crime Committee, a standing committee was set up in 1981 by the Director of Education to monitor the unruly and delinquent behavior of pupils in Hong Kong schools. Regular quarterly self-report surveys were conducted in all the secondary schools; however, primary schools were not included, and the surveys were only conducted between 1982-1983 and 1989-1990. However, the survey did not provide detailed information on the type of actions being described as bullying. Bullying behavior could have come under the general category bullying of pupils and also under a subcategory of delinquent behavior, namely acts of physical violence including fighting, assault, and bullying. Data collected in these two categories did not give detailed information about the bullying incidents: what was involved, who were the targets, and who were the bullies (Education Department, 1991, 1993).

Characteristics and Effects of Bullying


Bullying shares the main elements of most forms of aggressive behavior (Salmivalli & Nieminen, 2002), yet has certain characteristics not necessarily shared by other forms of aggressive behavior. Today, most developmental psychologists and researchers agree that school bullying is a form of aggression in which one or more students physically, psychologically, or sexually harass another student repeatedly over a period of time (Farrington, 1993; Rigby, 1996; Smith, 2000). Usually, the act is unprovoked, and the bully is perceived as stronger than the victim. The literature on bullying and delinquent behavior also suggests that bullying and delinquency are not the same.

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Delinquency includes a number of different types of antisocial behavior that are prohibited by criminal law, including stealing, violence, vandalism, fraud, and drug use (Baldry & Farrington, 2000); bullying is not necessarily recognized as criminal behavior. The negative consequences of being a victim or a bully are recognized by most researchers (Craig, 1998; Pellegrini, 1999; Slee, 1995). There is considerable evidence now that continued bullying can contribute to immediate problems such as sleeping difficulties, playing truant, and reduced concentration in problem solving. Children who are regularly and repeatedly victimized suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and academic problems (Khatri et al., 2000; OMoore & Kirkham, 2001; Roland, 2002). More seriously, some victims attempt suicide out of depression and may act out violently, as in recent shootings in U.S. schools. Many bullies are at risk of conduct disorders and delinquency as they grow into adolescence (Baldry & Farrington, 2000) and of serious criminal and antisocial behavior in adulthood (Olweus, 1994). Quite often, they may drop out of school, fail to gain qualifications, and have difficulty in holding a job and in maintaining healthy intimate interpersonal relationships. It is not clear from either of the local surveys on unruly and delinquent behavior what is generally understood as bullying in Hong Kong. It is generally seen as a type of peer fighting. Although we have a good understanding of both the outcomes of school bullying and the behaviors that lead students to be victimized by their peers, much less attention has been focused on the actual experience of school bullying and how Hong Kong students cope with victimization. Nor have the existing studies allowed for comparisons with the experiences of other countries. The present study was the first of its kind aiming at investigating this phenomenon thoroughly among senior primary schoolchildren in a special administrative region of China, which has a more than 95% Chinese population. On the basis of the research findings, potential methods of bullying intervention are discussed.

Method
Participants
Altogether, 47 primary schools in Hong Kong participated in this study. These represent approximately 5% of all primary schools, excluding the international ones. In each school, half of the primary Grade 5 and 6 students were invited to fill out the questionnaire. The major reason for selecting senior primary schoolchildren as targets is that this is usually the

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point at which bullying starts to become a problem in primary school. It can be seen as a peak age for learning patterns of bullying and responses to it. A total of 7,025 schoolchildren successfully completed and returned the questionnaires in 2001. Their ages ranged from 10 to 14 years; 60% of the respondents were between 11 and 12 years of age; 48% were girls, and 52% were boys. Of the total group, 71% of schoolchildren were born in Hong Kong, and 29% had emigrated from mainland China.

Procedure
To construct an indigenous questionnaire for the main study, 10 focus groupswhich included two groups of school discipline masters, four groups of teachers, and four groups of students, with a total of 124 participantswere first conducted to explore the nature and definition of school bullying in Hong Kong. On the basis of the findings generated from the focus groups, a questionnaire was eventually designed to measure the frequency of school bullying, students responses to school bullying, their reasons for school bullying, and help-seeking behavior after being bullied. For an in-depth understanding of factors associated with school bullying, three composite measures were also designed to assess students psychosocial conditions, their contact with violent values, and their feelings toward a harmonious school. Measurement. The questionnaire consisted of two main parts. Part A included nine subsections measuring (a) feelings toward a harmonious school, (b) definition of bullying behavior, (c) acceptance of bullying behavior, (d) frequency of bullying and immediate reactions, (e) frequency of bullying others and reasons, (f) frequency of being bullied and immediate reactions, (g) reporting to teachers and their reactions, (h) reporting to parents and their reactions, and (i) childrens contact with violent values and their relationships with teachers, parents, siblings, and peers. Part B covered participants demographic data, such as sex, age, and place of birth. For a self-reported measure of feelings toward a harmonious school, participants rated six items on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree) designed to indicate the extent to which the school was perceived as harmonious. Items include Having teachers who always care about students, Having good teacherstudent relationships in school, and The atmosphere in the classroom is relaxed and friendly. Coefficient alpha for this scale was .72. Higher scores on this measure indicated a negative image of the school. Childrens contact with violent values was assessed by three self-constructed items and the coefficient alpha was .65. Items include I used to read
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Table 1 Levels of Acceptance of Different Types of Bullying Behaviors


Absolutely Acceptable (%) 1.8 9.4 3.8 1.8 Acceptable (%) 2.1 12.4 6.3 1.7 Neutral (%) 8.4 31.9 23.8 6.8 Unacceptable (%) 16.0 25.5 28.8 13.9 Totally Unacceptable (%) 71.8 20.9 37.4 75.9

Behavior Physical bullying Verbal bullying Exclusion Extortion

Ma 4.54 3.36 3.90 4.60

SD 0.87 1.21 1.09 0.83

Note: N = 6,988 (because of missing data, the total N does not equal 7,025). a 1 = absolutely acceptable; 5 = totally unacceptable.

comics with violent content, I used to contact gang members and undesirable peers, and I like watching action/gangster movies. Higher scores on this scale represented low accessibility to violent values. For a measure of childrens psychosocial conditions, all respondents were asked to rate 10 items on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree). Examples of items are Friends surrounding me are good ones, I maintain good relationships with most of my teachers, and I live in harmony with my family members. Higher scores on this scale indicated childrens poor psychosocial conditions. The coefficient alpha for this scale was .71.

Results
Bullying behavior was categorized in four ways: physical bullying, verbal bullying, social exclusion, and extortion. Physical bullying included pushing, hitting, or physical aggression, and verbal bullying included name calling, teasing in a nasty way, or insulting. Ignoring someones presence, excluding someone from a friendship group, or threatening others not to play with a person were examples of social exclusion. Asking for money or others property was classified as extortion.

Acceptance of Bullying Behavior


When respondents were asked about their acceptance of different types of bullying behavior, as reflected by the means and percentages in Table 1, 90% of respondents did not see extortion as acceptable, 88% did not see physical bullying as acceptable, 66% saw socially excluding others as unacceptable, and 46% saw verbal bullying as unacceptable.
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Table 2 Experiences of Witnessing Bullying (Within the Past 6 Months)


Physical Bullying (%) Verbal Bullying (%) Exclusion (%) Extortion (%)

Experience Have witnessed bullying Never 1-5 times 6-10 times 11 or above Reactions to witnessing bullying Pretending not to see Stopping bullying by shouting loudly Stopping bullying by approaching the bullies Informing teachers immediately Note: N = 7,025.

32.5 46.0 8.1 13.5 15.9 7.5 20.3 56.3

12.7 37.9 19.5 30.0 23.7 9.1 33.5 33.7

34.4 41.9 11.9 11.8 25.6 9.2 31.8 33.5

59.8 26.7 6.2 7.3 17.0 5.3 13.1 64.7

Frequency of Witnessing Bullying in School


The frequencies with which children reported witnessing school bullying are shown in Table 2. Overall, 87% of participants reported that they had seen verbal bullying in the past 6 months, and 30% of them had witnessed bullying more than 10 times. Moreover, 68% of the sample had experienced physical bullying in the past half year, and 14% had such experiences more than 10 times. Exclusion was also frequently reported by the respondents (66%). Extortion was the least frequent bullying behavior in schools, although it was still a common response (40%). When children observed physical bullying incidents, 56% immediately reported it to their teachers. Other responses were to attempt to stop the bullying by approaching the bullies (20%) or by shouting loudly (8%). However, 16% took a passive approach and pretended not to see the event (Table 2).

Frequency of Self-Reported Bullying of Others in School


More than half (52%) of the respondents indicated that they had verbally bullied others inside or outside of school settings. Nearly a quarter reported having engaged in physical aggression and social exclusion. Comparatively speaking, only a few respondents indicated that they had extorted others in the past 6 months (Table 3).

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Table 3 Experiences of Bullying Others (Within the Past 6 Months)


Physical Bullying (%) Verbal Bullying (%) Exclusion (%) Extortion (%)

Experience Have bullied others Never 1-5 times 6-10 times 11 or above

75.8 19.4 1.7 3.1

47.9 39.3 5.5 7.3 Totally Agree/Agree (%)

75.6 19.2 2.3 2.9

90.5 6.7 1.0 1.8 Totally Disagree/Disagree (%)

Neutral (%)

Reasons for bullying others Taking revenge for being bulled Do not know how to handle ones temper Attention seeking Having no choice since other classmates are doing the same Bullying becomes habitual behavior Note: N = 7,025.

38.4 18.9 8.3 13.0

27.6 24.5 14.7 18.3

33.9 56.6 77.1 68.7

13.6

15.7

70.7

Table 3 shows that of the respondents who bullied others, 38% said that they bullied others because they wanted to take revenge after being victimized and 19% said that they did not know how to control their temper. However, fewer students reported bullying because they wanted to get attention from others, imitate their classmates, or had acquired such habits. Within the past 6 months, 61% of respondents had used at least one of the four types of bullying tactics, and more seriously, 13% of children had adopted up to three or four types of direct or indirect peer aggression in schools (Table 4).

Frequency of Being Bullied in School


Among those victimized, 62% had been verbally attacked by their schoolmates, and 32% reported having been physically attacked in the past

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Table 4 Have Tried Different Types of Bullying Tactics (Within the Past 6 Months)
Number of Types None One type Two types Three types Four types Note: N = 6,941; missing data = 84. N 2,710 2,076 1,260 552 343 % 39.0 29.9 18.2 8.0 4.9

Table 5 Experiences of Being Bullied by Others (Within the Past 6 Months)


Physical Bullying (%) Verbal Bullying (%) Exclusion (%) Extortion (%)

Experience Being bullied Never 1-5 times 6-10 times 11 or above Reactions to being bullied Launch complaint to teachers Take revenge Accept it reluctantly Make request opening to stop bullying Treat it as a joke Run away from bullying Whom did you seek help from when you were bullied? Self-handling Parents Teachers Schoolmates Friends outside the school Police Social workers Note: N = 7,025.

68.3 23.8 3.1 4.8 38.0 22.3 8.1 14.0 6.2 11.3

38.0 41.1 9.1 11.7 22.9 24.4 16.3 12.7 18.8 4.9

71.9 21.2 3.1 3.8 26.6 15.0 26.4 14.0 10.0 8.1

86.8 9.4 1.4 2.4 54.7 11.4 7.5 9.7 4.8 11.9

25.3 27.7 24.2 11.3 3.9 5.2 2.5

39.1 16.1 20.4 16.5 4.7 1.5 1.6

34.8 19.8 17.5 17.0 5.9 1.6 3.3

21.6 23.9 29.4 7.9 2.8 12.5 1.8

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6 months. Being socially excluded (28%) and having material or money extorted (13%) were reported comparatively less often by the victims. However, these types of bullying should not be neglected (Table 5). Data from Table 5 indicate that most victims reported complaining to their teachers when they were bullied by others, especially when physically abused or under extortion. When facing social exclusion, children tended to accept it reluctantly (26%); a similar percentage (27%) made the case known to their teachers. In the case of verbal bullying, nearly a quarter of these children indicated that they would take revenge. When they were bullied by others, most of the victims said they would handle the events by themselves regardless of whether they were physically victimized, verbally bullied, or excluded by their peers. However, about 3 out of 10 would seek help from their parents when they were physically abused (28%), and a similar number turned to their teachers if they faced extortion in school (29%). Victims rarely mentioned other persons, such as schoolmates, friends, policemen, or social workers, as sources of help (Table 5). Percentages in Table 6 show that 70% of respondents had experienced one to four types of bullying in the past 6 months and, in particular, 19% of victims had been exposed to three to four types of peer victimization.

Childrens Responses to BullyVictim Problems in Schools


In response to the question Have you ever contacted teachers when you were bullied? 67% of these children had not made their experience known to their teachers (Table 7). Most of these children believed that they could solve peer conflicts by themselves (58%) or they could tolerate bullying (49%). Other reasons for not reporting bullying were that the bully might take revenge (32%) or that they treated the bullying as a joke (31%). Some children did not make complaints to their teachers because they did not want to bother their teachers because this might lead to them being scolded (28%) or they thought their teacher could not help much (23%). More than a quarter (26%) of victims expressed that they would take revenge themselves (Table 7). Only one third of victims said that they would inform their teachers about bullying (Table 7). Of these children, 57% indicated that their teachers would then ask them whether they had initially provoked others. However, in other respects, some students did perceive that their teachers reactions to complaints about bullying were positive about half the time. They would scold and punish the bullies (56%), mediate conflicts between bullies and victims (53%), or listen to victims feeling and offer you concrete help (53%). Only a few teachers would punish both the bullies and victims (16%) or did not follow up on the incident after hearing about it (15%; Table 7).
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Table 6 Have Been Bullied by Others by Different Tactics


Number of Types None One type Two types Three types Four types Note: N = 6,940; missing data = 85. N 2,084 2,082 1,491 838 445 % 30.0 30.0 21.5 12.1 6.4

Table 7 Have You Ever Contacted Teachers When You Were Bullied?
Experience Making complaint to teachers Yes No Teachers immediate responses (can tick more than one answer) Ask students about who have started the conflicts. Scold and punish the bullies. Mediate conflicts between bullies and victims. Listen to victims feeling and offer concrete help. Interview the bullys parents and issue warning. Help students to look for supports from senior students or other teachers. Punish both the bullies and victims. Leave it and never follow up. Reasons for choosing no (can tick more than one answer) I can solve it on my own. I can tolerate it. I am afraid that someone may take revenge against me. I just treat it as a joke. I dont want to bother my teachers. I want to take revenge by myself. I dont think teachers can help. Telling teachers is a cowardly behavior. Note: N = 7,025. %

33.0 67.0 57.3 55.9 52.8 52.7 29.6 19.1 15.5 15.4 58.1 49.3 32.1 30.5 27.7 26.0 23.2 12.7

Childrens Responses to BullyVictim Problems at Home


As shown in Table 8, similar results were obtained when children answered the question Have you ever contacted parents when you were bullied? More than two thirds of victims did not inform their parents about

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Table 8 Have You Ever Contacted Parents When You Were Bullied?
Experience Making complaint to parents Yes No Parents immediate responses (can tick more than one answer) Analyze the pros and cons of the issue and teach you how to deal with it. Ask you to be submissive. Seek help from social workers and teachers. Accompany you to confront with the bully. Teach you how to take revenge. Seek help from his/her friends. Scold you. Do not know how to do. Report the case to police. Reasons for choosing no (can tick more than one answer) I can solve it on my own. I can tolerate it. I dont want to bother my parents. I dont think parents can help. I just treat it as a joke. I want to take revenge by myself. Telling parents is a cowardly behavior. Note: N = 7,025. %

33.0 67.0 62.6 34.9 28.8 23.3 16.2 15.6 8.8 5.2 3.9 60.7 47.9 34.2 29.0 27.3 25.0 12.2

being bullied in school. They believed that they could solve peer conflicts by themselves (61%) or they could tolerate being bullied (48%). Furthermore, they did not want to bother their parents (34%) or thought that their parents could not help with the problem (29%). Parents immediate reactions to bullying were seen by the children in different ways. On the positive side, parents would analyze the pros and cons of the issue (63%), seek help from social workers and teachers (29%), or accompany you to confront the bully (23%). Some parents might adopt less helpful tactics such as teach you how to take revenge (16%) or ask you to be submissive (35%). However, very few victims said that their parents would scold them (9%) or report the case to police (4%).

Factors Relating to School Bullying


As shown in Table 9, childrens psychosocial conditions were related to their bullyvictim problems in school. When children were happy, emotionally

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Table 9 Correlations Between Scores on the BullyVictim Problems and Childrens Psychosocial Conditions, Their Contact With Violent Values, and Their Feeling Toward a Harmonious School
Psychosocial Conditions Contact With Violent Values Feeling Toward a Harmonious school

Scale Bullying others (more frequent) Physical bullying Verbal bullying Exclusion Extortion Being bullied by others (more frequent) Physical bullying Verbal bullying Exclusion Extortion

.220** .214** .177** .144** .222** .229** .249** .167**

.308** .243** .209** .245** .173** .077** .077** .141**

.179** .161** .177** .155** .152** .113** .159** .139**

Note: N = 7,025. For a measure of childrens psychosocial conditions, respondents were asked to rate 10 items on a scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree). The coefficient alpha for this scale was .71. Higher scores on this scale indicated childrens poor psychosocial conditions. Contact with violent values was assessed by three self-constructed items, and the coefficient alpha was .65. Higher scores on this scale represented low accessibility to violent values. For feeling toward a harmonious school, respondents rated six items on a scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 5 (strongly disagree). The coefficient alpha for this scale was .72. Higher scores on this scale indicated childrens negative image of their school. **p < .01.

stable, satisfied with school performance, and accepted by classmates, their likelihood of engagement in bullyvictim problems was less frequent. On the contrary, children might be involved in peer victimization when their relationships with peers, parents, or siblings were unsatisfactory. The same pattern was also identified in the relationship between childrens feelings toward a harmonious school and school bullying. The more the students felt that their school was harmonious, the less their probability of involvement in bullying. Moreover, bullying in schools and childrens accessibility to violent values are related. Students who had frequent contacts with gangs, violent comics, and action films had the tendency to be involved in different types of bullying. One can see this as an inevitable association between violent models and exposure to violence in the media as being related to engaging in violent behavior.

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Table 10 Pearsons Correlations Between Bullying Others and Being Bullied by Different Bullying Tactics
Variable 1. Physical bullying 2. Verbal bullying 3. Exclusion 4. Extortion Note: N = 7,025. **p < .01. 1 .466** .245** .206** .259** 2 .289** .480** .204** .172** 3 .218** .221** .346** .251** 4 .218** .151** .220** .410**

Relation Between Bullies and Victims


Pearson correlation coefficients in Table 10 show that there was a positive relation between different types of bullying and different types of being bullied by peers. Association between frequencies of physical bullying and being physically bullied was moderately related (r = .47, p < .01) and the association between frequencies of verbal bullying and being verbally abused by peers was also moderately correlated (r = .48, p < .01). Correlation coefficients of exclusion and being excluded and of extortion and being extorted were .35 and .41, respectively. It is possible that those who are victims may then take revenge on the bully or that bullies are those who have been previously victimized; both explanations are likely to be true to some extent.

Gender Differences
A chi-square test indicated a significant association between sex and witnessing bullying, 2(2, N = 7,024) = 196.31, p < .001; schoolboys (73%) had witnessed more bullying behavior than schoolgirls (61%) in primary schools. Also, significant associations were found between sex and physical bullying, 2(2, N = 6,962) = 265.13, p < .001, and between sex and being physically bullied by peers 2(2, N = 6,957) = 249.52, p < .001. Comparatively speaking, boys had engaged more in physical bullying than had girls (32% vs. 16%, respectively) and were being more physically bullied by schoolmates than were girls (40% vs. 22%, respectively). No significant difference between sexes was found regarding involvement in verbal bullying and exclusion.

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Discussion
In Hong Kong, severe school violence such as shooting or fighting with weapons is rarely seen, but bullying behaviors among schoolchildren such as verbal insults, name calling, taunting, and hitting are certainly common. The findings of the current study confirm this assertion. Results show that the prevalence of school bullying is very high in senior primary school classes. As regards physical bullying, 24% of the respondents admitted bullying other students sometime during the preceding 6 months. Similarly, 32% reported that they had been the victims of physical bullying. These figures on physical bullying are similar to those found in Norway and the United Kingdom (MORI, 2000; Olweus, 1997). Although bullying may be considered normative in many group settings, results of the present study indicate that it is socially unacceptable to almost all primary schoolchildren. Not only are children frightened by physically aggressive acts that may lead to bodily harm, they may feel aversive psychological effects of bullying, especially when they are socially excluded and being verbally insulted by their peers. We found that more than one third of bullies aimed to take revenge after being victimized by others, and nearly a quarter of victims also indicated that they would take revenge sometime later. Primary schoolchildren adopt the same type of bullying tactics used by the bullies to take revenge when they are victimized by their peers. Although some victims in the present study sought help from their teachers or parents, most of them said that they would handle the bullyvictim problems by themselves. Teachers and parents, therefore, need to recognize that much of bullying, both physical and emotional, is not reported and should take active steps to ensure that school and playground surveillance keep children safe. There are several danger signs that reflect peer ill-treatment effects, and adults should be aware of these characteristics (Monks & Smith, 2000; Pellegrini, 1999). Schools can also develop policies aimed at encouraging pupils to report bullying and publicize the steps that will be taken to respond to it. In studying psychosocial factors related to school bullying in Hong Kong, findings suggest that children who come from or grow up in an aggressive background are more likely to become involved in violenceeither as a bully or as a victimif they frequently witness bullying acts. This study confirms on one hand that the poorer the students psychosocial conditions (unstable emotions, poor relationships with teachers, family members and schoolmates, and dissatisfaction with own academic results), the more frequently they bully others. On the other hand, it is likely that these findings, in part, also reflect the adverse consequences of being a victim of bullying, which

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show themselves in deteriorating school performance and relationships with family and peers. Another important potential cause is indicated by the finding that the more students have contact with violent values through deviant peers and violent mass media, the more likely it is that they bully others (Table 9). The process by which violence is taught is circular. It begins when a child learns violent acts from his or her parents or immediate environment during childhood. When these children grow into their adolescence, they often loosen family bonds and school bonds if their aggressive behavior is seen as getting worse by parents and teachers. They then associate with peers who come from a similar background and start to engage in some bullying acts or minor delinquency (Hayes, 1997). As teenagers begin to enmesh themselves in bullying subcultures, they become insensitive to others feelings and cannot develop a sense of empathy. They may further weaken their family attachment and school commitment and develop a stronger association with delinquent peers, and when teenagers continue this style of living, they may internalize violent values. Some are likely to become involved in a vicious cycle, which may lead from childhood bullying to adult violence, domination of others, and extortion (Wong, 1999). There have been numerous initiatives around the world to prevent, reduce, and counter bullying. Approaches such as the Bullying at School Program developed by Olweus (1997); The Sheffield Project documented by Smith and Sharp (1994); and the Whole School Approach summarized by Tattum and Tattum (1996) have been suggested and discussed, and numerous strategies have been tested in different countries over the past 15 years (Besag, 1989; Limper, 2000; Olweus, 1997; Smith & Sharp, 1994; Smith et al., 2004; Sullivan, 2000). Unfortunately, there has been no comprehensive intervention strategy developed by governmental authorities to deal with the problem of school bullying in Hong Kong. It was not until recently that we saw some initiatives for antibullying programs organized by local practitioners in Hong Kong. Programs include organizing seminars for teachers and parents, running antibullying curricula for pupils, and trying out whole-school models in a few schools. Nevertheless, these programs were not citywide, recognized initiatives (Wong, 2004).

Responses to School Bullying in Hong Kong


It is important that school personnel, parents, and related professionals take the problems of school bullying seriously to stop bullying and prevent

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its negative impacts on child development. In preventing and responding to school bullying in Hong Kong, the following strategies may be considered.
1. Knowing that verbal bullying is very common among Hong Kong schoolchildren, conducting activities to teach pupils positive ways to express feelings of distress, rage, or anguish can be very useful. Role-play and rehearsals are useful strategies to teach students how to achieve constructive outcomes without hurting others. Social skills training and stress coping strategies could be taught to both bullies and victims to equip them to handle peer conflicts inside or outside of school. 2. The cycle of revenge should be broken by effective interventions that respond to bullying in constructive ways and prevent its recurrence (Gazelle & Ladd, 2002). Such school-based violence prevention programs have proved effective in preventing and managing bullying behavior (Eslea & Smith, 1998; Tattum & Tattum, 1996). 3. This study has also highlighted the potential role of environmental factors such as creating a positive school psychosocial climate and reducing contact with violent values in contributing to reducing school bullying. In addition to studying the individual characteristics of bullies and victims, their environment should be studied (Swearer & Doll, 2001) and, to the extent possible, modified as a part of comprehensive antibullying programs. 4. Scholars have pointed out that cooperative group work in class reduces the extent of victimization of vulnerable children. Because there is strong evidence that victims are most often bullied by someone from their class, methods of class discipline that draw on positive methods are likely to achieve more positive attitudes and behavior in pupils (Cowie, 2000; DiGiulio, 2000). In this regard, to promote a peaceful, loving, and respectful classroom environment, schools may encourage teachers to hold class meetings regularly. During these meetings, teachers may organize activities to enhance students intrapersonal and interpersonal skills. 5. This study indicates that when students encounter bullying, they often do not tell the full truth when the bullying comes to the attention of the authorities and may sometimes take revenge afterward. The present research indicates that any effective intervention strategy should involve students themselves in resolving the conflicts. One way is to teach students how to use restorative practices such as a classroom circle or a restorative conference to help them accept responsibility for their own actions and make amends for harm caused. Restorative practices are increasingly being regarded as attractive options for dealing with bullying in schools. They focus on maintaining and strengthening social bonds to prevent children, either bullies or victims, from feeling isolated from or rejected by the school community (Braithwaite, Ahmed, Morrison, & Reinhart, 2003; Morrison, 2002). Wong (2000) also pointed out that

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restorative practices seem to be compatible with Chinese culture in that they emphasize collective values and the restoration of interpersonal harmony. In running the restorative conference, the child is surrounded by a community of care and the issue of accountability and responsibility for wrongdoing becomes the focus for discussion and restoration. It really helps the bullies and victims to recover. 6. Interestingly, in Chinese culture, there is an old Chinese phrase, he shi lao. He means harmony or restoration. Shi means an event or a case. Lao means an elder. He shi lao represents an elder playing the role of mediator or facilitator to rebuild a harmonious relationship between two parties. As Chinese people used to live with kin in a village, elders are respected by all members of the family. Throughout Chinese history, many elders have informally acted as he shi lao to mediate conflicts arising from family, community, and intervillage disputes (Wong, 2002). One option for schools to consider is training a number of senior students as harmony ambassadors (he shi lao) to help teachers dealing with bullying issues. A harmony ambassador is similar to a peer mediator, a human resource to provide empathic support to victims and rebuild the relationship between bullies and victims. This option has been tried out in some schools in Hong Kong and received positive feedback (Wong, 2004).

Conclusion
The present study can be seen as the most comprehensive study on the prevalence and characteristics of the bullyvictim problem in Hong Kong, China. School bullying is a problem that is receiving increasing attention worldwide. Although Hong Kong has been lagging behind its counterparts around the world in research and intervention, this article provides a clear picture of school bullying among Chinese senior primary schoolchildren. There is no doubt that more efforts should be devoted to examining the issues among secondary school pupils and identifying factors associated with the onset and continuation of the bullyvictim problem in China. On the basis of some recent studies evaluating the impacts of different antibullying interventions using a school-based approach (Arora, 1994; Limper, 2000), it has generally been found that in some schools in which there was a high level of support from the school management and in which programs had been implemented thoroughly and consistently, there was a marked reduction in the level of bullying (Roland, 2002; Tattum, 1997). Nevertheless, the findings are only valid in countries in Europe, North America, and Australasia; it is unknown whether such school-based programs are also useful for schools with pupils growing up in a predominantly Chinese

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city such as Hong Kong. Adolescents in Hong Kong are often academically oriented, submissive to authority, and less verbally expressive; future research could assess the effectiveness of a school-based intervention developed especially for Hong Kong. Chinese people are often believed to be inner directed and to have a strong concern with shame, and they may not be able to manage shame appropriately (Wong, 2002). Bearing in mind that shaming covers a broad spectrum of disapproving behaviors ranging from those that are highly respectful of the bullies to those that are disrespectful (Braithwaite et al., 2003), to help bullies or victims recover shame management must be reintegrative but not stigmatizing in nature. It would also be interesting to conduct further studies on how restorative practices are best integrated into the whole-school antibullying strategy and how bullies and victims manage shame in Hong Kong. Apart from adopting a school-based approach to prevent and alleviate the problems, community programs such as launching a citywide campaign to combat problems of school bullying should also be advocated to counteract school bullying. The present study definitely provides evidence for antibullying advocates to urge the Hong Kong government to adopt and modify the above programs to suit the local context. It is hoped that school violence and peer victimization will be prevented and minimized so that children can study in a harmonious school and live in a harmonious community.

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Dennis S. W. Wong is associate professor in the Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong, specializing in school bullying and restorative justice. David P. P. Lok is associate professor in the Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong, specializing in child development and classroom learning. T. Wing Lo is professor in the Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong, specializing in youth criminology and social work. Stephen K. Ma is lecturer at the Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong, specializing in social research and statistical analysis.

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