Mental violenceMental violence

Bullying at secondary school

Author/s: Jenna-Lee Marco-Felton
Date: March 2018


This indicator shows the proportion of adolescents in the 2012 National School Violence Study who reported being a victim of bullying at school.


Data Source National School Violence Study (2012) conducted by Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, Cape Town.
Analysis by Jenna Marco-Felton, Children's Institute, University of Cape Town.

Notes 1. Adolescents at secondary school are defined here as those in grades 8 to 12. Some learners in this study are older than 17 years (the upper age for the definition of children); this is a reflection of a delay in school progression for many young people.
The 2012 National School Violence Study collected information on the reported experience of bullying at secondary school, although the term "bullying' was not defined in the questionnaire. Some 13% of adolescents indicated that they have been subject to bullying at school, and 11% indicated that they had been bullied within the previous year.

The research also suggested that bullying heightens susceptibility to other forms of victimisation at school, based on the finding that more learners who had been bullied at school (56.5%) had also been the victim of a violent crime in the previous year, compared to victims who had never been bullied at school (17.1%; p<0.05). One in five (21%) of the students had experienced some form of cyber-bullying within the previous year, with online fighting being the most commonly reported. Perpetrators were often friends of the victim.
The report on the 2012 National School Violence Survey (NSVS) findings does not define what constitutes "bullying", although cyber-bullying or online violence is discussed in some detail. The 2012 NSVS was conducted by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention with a sample of 5,939 secondary school learners across all nine provinces. The school-based study included the principal and two educators per school, and followed on from a similar (broader) survey in 2008. The sample of secondary schools was stratified by province, with the sample being drawn proportionate to size. The DBE Education Management Information System was used as the sampling frame, from which 121 schools were randomly selected. Ten learners from each grade were randomly recruited from those who returned completed informed parental consent, resulting in a sample of 50 learners per school.

Females were slightly over-represented in this study and the age range of the participants extended to 27 years. However the patterns did not vary greatly when only responses from children aged 17 years and younger were analysed.
The two National School Violence Surveys (2008 and 2012) provide useful insights into the prevlance and patterns of violence in and related to the school environment, but they are not conducted on a regular basis and so there remains a gap in accessing routine surveillance data.