Aggressive behavior, stronger children attacking weaker children, has always been around, but it is only over the last few decades that the term “bullying” has grabbed attention. Bullying in Portugal is seen as a real problem, but it is hard to pin down solid data.
Bullying statistics show similar results in different regions of the county, but there have not been any national studies. Studies in Lisbon, as well as northern and southern regions, show 20-25 percent of school children have been bullied, either verbally or physically. It also showed that 15-20 percent admit to having been bullies at some time over the previous year according to the latest bullying information
Studies at Braga et Guimaraes showed similar results, as well as the capital at Lisbon in the south. Braga is a more rural area in the north with less diversity, and Lisbon is more metropolitan with high density population and more diversity as far as minority ethnic groups. There were more boys than girls involved in bullying, and 78 percent of middle school bullying happened on the playground at school.
One unique factor in Portugal schools is the retention of students at their current grade level if they do not meet certain requirements. This can result in students spending a few years in one grade, and can be significantly older than other members of that class. This can skew study results, and can result in more bullying in Portugal, where either the older student is bullied, or becomes the bully because he or she is older. Students in this situation often are not motivated and have little interest in school. Since they are older and physically stronger, they may become bullies to get attention or to get a feeling of power that they do not otherwise have, the study suggested.
Urban and Rural
Another study examined the differences between north and south parts of Portugal. In this study about 20 percent reported having been bullied in both regions, and about 15 percent admitted to having bullied others. In the north 24 percent of boys said they had been bullied and 20 percent were bullies. In the south those numbers were closer with 22 percent saying they had been bullied, and had acted as bullies themselves.
The figures for girls was significantly lower, with 18 percent in the north saying they had been bullied and nine percent saying they were bullies. In the south, 16 percent said they had been bullied and 10 percent admitted to bullying in Portugal.
The study found very little differences in socio-economic groups, with both rich and poor kids reporting the same levels of bullying. In Portugal bullying usually takes the form of name calling and spreading rumors about other students. Being excluded from groups is another common form of bullying, but this was rarely reported by Portuguese students. In both north and south regions, 95 percent of students said they were never intentionally left alone or excluded on the playground.
While most bullying happens on the playground, the study showed, children still enjoy recess and being on the playground in Portugal, the study showed. This is true even though they are not well maintained and there is little if any equipment such as balls to play with. These times are also often not supervised, and some feel this may give opportunities for more bullying.
Both bullies and victims have similarities even though they are at other ends of the equation. Bullies tend to be distant from families and others at school, they tend to use more alcohol and drugs, and have physical and emotional problems. They are also prone to depression.
Victims have these same symptoms, and can appear very similar to outsiders. The biggest difference is the long term effects of bullying on victims, who also suffer a loss of self esteem and confidence. One interesting difference is that victims report feeling less support and acceptance among classmates, while bullies report feeling less support and acceptance from teachers and other authority figures.
Perceptions is also an important issue, as bullies may not see themselves as bullies, This report suggests that the best measure of victims is to get the information from the victim. On the other hand, to find out the number of bullies it is better to ask peers about other students instead of depending on self reporting.
The picture of bullying is never so simple as just bully and victim. A study done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – a 35 nation group that works together – showed most people in Portugal are generally happy with their lives. One interesting thing related to bullying in Portugal was that a high number of children say they like their classmates and school, and feel that most of their classmates are nice to them. This was significantly higher than the OECD average, but at the same time, Portuguese children reported more instances of bullying than the average.
To define bullying, it is considered unwanted aggressive behavior with a stronger person victimizing a weaker person. This can also be only perception of strength versus weakness, because at times the two are really equal, such as two students of the same age in the same grade. It is also important to define it as something that happens over a long period of time. A one-time event is not considered bullying.
The development of the electronic age also has developed the idea of cyberbullying. It is becoming a new means of bullying in Portugal, with internet bullying and facebook bullying. There have been reports of teens killing themselves after having been cyberbullied, but there have so far been no reports of this in Portugal.
Often too, the pattern of bully and victim tends to remain the same through adulthood if it is not stopped in the middle school bullying age. If it is not stopped, there is then high school bullying. After that there is adulthood bullying, with workplace bullying and office bullying in Portugal.
Often those that are victims as children continue to be victims as adults, and bullies continue to be bullies as well.
With several studies showing there is a real problem with bullying, more people have become concerned and there are efforts being made to reduce the problem of bullying in Portugal. How to handle bullying has become a major topic in Portugal.
There is a program called “no bully Portugal” whose aim is to eradicate the problem. This group says 33 percent of students have experienced bullying. This group has created a pilot project in the city of Olaias, where they say they can create a nobullying environment.
Their solution is to bring together the whole school community – including students, parents, administrators and teachers – to address prevention of bullying. They offer specific training, and develop emotional intelligence or strength in students, and work toward positive things like empathy, self confidence and helping others. These things will all reduce bullying and they feel it is an effective way to deal with it.
There are many programs like this, that raise bulling awareness. There are many reasons why people bully, and many theories of how to deal with the issue. Most agree that increasing awareness is a major step in the right direction.