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The social skills problems of victims of bullying: Self, peer and teacher perceptions


Correspondence should be addressed to Claire Fox, School of Psychology, University of Keele, Staffs, ST5 5BG, UK (e-mail:


Background. A small number of prior studies have found that victims of school bullying tend to exhibit poor social skills. Few of these have examined this issue from multiple perspectives, and there has been a focus on a restricted range of social skills.

Aims. To determine the extent to which self, peers, and teachers regard victims as having poorer social skills than non-victims across 20 behaviours/competencies.

Sample. A convenience sample of 330 pupils aged between 9 and 11 years (162 girls and 168 boys) provided self-report and peer-report data. They were drawn from 12 classes from 6 junior schools in the UK. Additionally, 11 of the class teachers provided data.

Method. Three separate methods were employed and in each case, participants were provided with 20 short statements that described a different social skill: (1) participants who were classified as either ‘victims’ or ‘non-victims’ (using peer nominations) rated themselves on a 3-point scale in terms of how like them each description was, (2) participants were asked to think of a victim and a non-victim in their class and to rate both of these people on each description, and (3) teachers were asked to rate a previously identified victim and a non-victim from their class on each description.

Results. Using a direct discriminant function analysis of the self-ratings, six of the social skills items were found to discriminate between victims and non-victims, and the discriminant function was able to correctly classify 80% of the participants. For 18 of the items, peer ratings indicated significantly more pronounced social skills problems for victims than for non-victims. Teacher ratings were significant for eight of the social skill items, and in each case, victims were rated as having greater problems.

Conclusion. The finding that victims are perceived by three different sources to have poor social skills has important implications for interventions to support victims of bullying.