Bullying and harassment by school peers has received increasing attention as their relation to personal problems and more extreme forms of violence has become better recognized. Emphases of empirical studies have focused on characteristics and behaviours of both school bullies and their victims. There is a need to place these traits and actions into the context of the situation in which they occur, in order to expand the research and allow for the development of more sophisticated and comprehensive educational, prevention and intervention programmes. A total 251 professionals (teachers and counsellors) participated in this empirical study on the ability of professionals to differentiate between bullying and other forms of conflict. Participants were asked to judge the severity of 21 scenarios depicting different combinations of situational characteristics and also whether they constituted bullying situations or not. Results indicated that physical threat or abuse was seen as more severe than verbal or social/emotional abuse, and professionals more often rated physical conflicts as bullying even when they did not fit the definition. The repeated nature of an abusive relationship and an unfair match between participants were bullying situation characteristics found to be related to the responses of more and less effective situation evaluators. Implications for pre-and in-service training of educators were considered based on study results and previous research.
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