A brief historical background
Over the last two decades, bullying in schools has become an issue of widespread concern (Smith, Morita, Junger-Tas, Olweus, Catalano and Slee, 1999). This is not to say that in earlier times bullying in schools was ignored. There was much animated public discussion of bullying in English private schools in the mid-nineteenth century following the publication of the famous novel Tom Brown's school days (Hughes, 1857). This book evoked strong expressions of abhorrence towards, and condemnation of, the practice of bullying, and various suggestions were made on how it could be countered (see Rigby, 1997). However, the systematic examination of the nature and prevalence of school bullying only began with the work of Olweus in the 1970 in Scandinavia.
The volume of research since then has clarified much about the nature of bullying, and the suffering it can cause (see Rigby, 2002; Smith, 2004). Certain pupils are clearly more at risk of being involved as bullies or victims, or sometimes both (bully/victims), by virtue of personality, family background factors, characteristics such as disability, and the nature and quality of friendships and peer-group reputation. Also, there is considerable evidence that the experience of being a victim can exacerbate outcomes such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, mistrust of others, psychosomatic symptoms, and school refusal (Hawker and Boulton, 2000). In addition, a career as a bully in school predicts increased risks of violence and abuse in later life.