CHILDREN who witness schoolyard violence suffer similar psychological damage as the actual bullying victims, new research has revealed.

The findings by psycho-educationists have sparked a call from one of the nation's top psychologists for the State Government to renew its commitment to the Queensland Schools Declaration Against Bullying and Violence, which was drawn up in 2010.

"This new research shows the damage that bullying is doing across the board," Michael Carr-Gregg said.

"To keep our kids safe schools need to do better, and I urge the Queensland Government to reinforce the pledge of zero tolerance against bullying and a commitment to empathy and kindness.

"This needs to happen now.

"What chance do kids have when our national political leaders openly attack children like we witnessed last week with the story on Harper Nielsen, the nine-year-old girl who didn't stand up for the national anthem.

"No matter what you think of her beliefs calling her a 'brat' was unacceptable.

"Bullying is dangerous and must be wiped out. Leading by example is a good start."

Teen parenting expert and author Michael Carr-Gregg
Teen parenting expert and author Michael Carr-Gregg

The new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health showed children who witness violence at school at age 13 were at later risk of psychosocial and academic impairment at age 15.


Nine-year-old Harper Nielsen. Picture: Annette Dew
Nine-year-old Harper Nielsen. Picture: Annette Dew


Michel Janosz of the University of Montreal's School of Psycho-Education and his international team looked at 4000 high school students.

"First, witnessing school violence in Year 8 predicted later impairment at Grade 10," the author said.

"Second, bystander effects were very similar to being victimised by violence directly."

The study showed that when a child witnessed physical assaults there was an association with later drug use and delinquency.

The effect was the same for hidden violence, but witnessing threats and insults predicted increases in drug use, social anxiety, depressive symptoms, and decreases in engagement and participation at school.

Dr Carr-Gregg said as a nation Australia had a long way to go in the battle against bullying.

"The damage trickles down through the schoolyard," he said.

The three-year-old Danson triplets (from left) Lyrik, Phoenix and Noah. Picture: Nigel Hallett
The three-year-old Danson triplets (from left) Lyrik, Phoenix and Noah. Picture: Nigel Hallett

Kids can tell a bully

FROM a very young age children can sniff out a bully and give them the swerve.

New research shows that from toddler age upwards, kids will gravitate to winners, but naturally avoid those who win by force.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, and follow previous research from psychologists that showed babies at nine months could grasp a simple conflict of interest and automatically assume that the larger person would defeat the smaller.

The study's lead author, University of California Irvine's Ashley Thomas, said: "Our research shows that it's part of human nature to be aware of social status.

"Even nine-month-old babies assume that the largest person will win and toddlers seek out those whom other people yield to.

"We're generally repulsed by bullies who brutally steamroll others to get their own way."

The paper found small children behaved differently from their closest primate relatives, the bonobo apes, which try to bond with those that use physical force to get their way.

At three years old the Danson brothers are already clued into the dynamics of play. The identical triplets have the support of each other in the play arena.