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Bullying is a form of school violence, known to be associated with not just physical injuries among students but also behavioural problems manifesting as school abscenteeism as well as psychiatric morbidities that may require medical attention. In spite of the well documented association of bullying with psychiatric morbidities in other regions, there is dearth of published research on bullying and psychiatric morbidity in Nigeria. There is a need to generate necessary data on bullying in relation to personality traits of perpetrators and victims and associated psychiatric morbidities among secondary school students in Nigeria. OBJECTIVE The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of bullying and its relationship with personality profile and psychiatric morbidities among senior secondary school students in Ilesa, South Western Nigeria. METHODS Four hundred and thirty two secondary school students in senior secondary classes based on predetermined sample size were recruited from six randomly selected schools in each of the two Local Government Areas in Ilesa, Osun State using multistage stratified sampling technique; proportionate representation of the sample by gender and type of school was ensured. Of the six schools selected in each Local Government, three each were privately and government owned schools. Each student completed a semi-structured socio-demographic questionnaire, Peer Relationship Questionnaire (PRQ) to assess bullying behaviour, the Strength and Difficulty Questionnaire (SDQ) for psychiatric morbidity evaluation and the Big Five Inventory (BFI) for personality assessment. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software (version 21) was used for analysis.
1.1 Background The earliest available study on bullying was by Professor Dan Olweus from 1970 to 1973 when he conducted a study of what he termed “whipping boy/ bully problems”.1 Little did he know that the concept would generate such an enormous concern and attention from researchers all over the world. Bullying has however come to the fore and has continued to be an important issue in American schools because of its connection to school shootings.2,3 Behaviours such as taunting, name calling, and ostracism directed at fellow students, have been linked to lethal violence in schools across nations.3 In school, bullying behaviours may take various forms,4, 5 including physical bullying (e.g. hitting, pushing and kicking),4,5 verbal bullying (e.g. calling mean names in a hurtful way), social exclusion (e.g. ignoring or leaving out others on purpose), and spreading rumours (e.g. telling lies about others).5 Recently, cyber-bullying has emerged as a new type of bullying which involves bullying others using electronic means such as cell phones and computers.6-8 Today, research on school bullying has become the focus of many psycho-behavioural, sociological, as well as health researchers in many parts of the world.9-14 Bullying is a distressing experience that is often continuous over years and which can predict both concurrent and future psychiatric symptoms and disorders even in adulthood.13,15 Bullying, particularly among school-age children, is currently recognised as a major public health issue worldwide.15 There is an expanding body of research evidence emanating from developed countries which are highlighting the range of adverse consequences on the individuals involved in bullying, either as a victim or as a perpetrator.11, 16 Being a victim of bullying has been associated with reduced self-esteem,11 anxiety and depressive symptoms,11, 16, 17 physical and psychosomatic symptoms,18 suicidal ideation19 and suicide.20 On the other hand, being a perpetrator has been associated with aggression,21 antisocial personality, criminality and substance abuse.22 As regards the direction of causality, studies have shown that bullying appears to be a potential risk factor for mental health problems, since it usually precedes the onset of emotional difficulties.23 Adolescents involved in bullying (either as perpetrators or as victims) are at a significant risk of experiencing psychiatric symptoms, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicidal ideation or behaviour.24 Many of these problems may extend well into adulthood. About 10 – 20 percent of children and adolescents are regularly involved in school bullying either as victims or perpetrators.25 Boys are more involved in bullying and a greater proportion of young children rather than adolescents report victimisation from bullying. 1.2 Definition of Research Problem In Nigeria, bullying and peer victimisation among students seem to have attracted little or no attention from researchers probably because they are not often perceived as serious social or educational issues that require attention.27, 28 Although cases of bullying had been anecdotally reported in many schools, this act has not been given the deserved attention. Consequently, there is paucity of data on the extent and consequences of bullying in Nigerian schools.29 The lack of statistical data and absence of well documented research findings have made it rather difficult to appreciate the prevalence of bullying in Nigeria and also to compare with what has been reported in other countries.30 Traditionally, there is the tendency to regard peer victimisation and bullying as normal part of childhood experiences which Nigerian children must learn to tolerate as part of their maturation process.31 The dimensions which this phenomenon could assume and the inherent consequences are however deleterious, not only for the educational development of the child but also to the health of the nation, making it expedient for researchers to investigate the phenomenon of bullying and peer victimisation.12, 27, 32 Although there have been very few reports on bullying in schools in Osun state of Nigeria,29, 33 none has reported the relationship between bullying and its associated psychiatric morbidities, as well as personality profile of perpetrators and victims in this environment. The study was therefore carried out to fill this gap in knowledge as it sought to document the extent of bullying (perpetrators and victims) among senior secondary school students and also to find its relationship, if any, with personality profile and psychiatric morbidity.