As migrants and refugees begin to settle into new lives across Europe, they face many challenges – from securing residency papers, to learning a new language and finding work. For children, new schools can also be difficult places to grow up. In our recent research we found that migrant and refugee children in Italian schools were more likely to be bullied than their peers, many because their schoolmates already held prejudices against them.
Rates of bullying among children are high across the world, according to a recent report from the UN’s special representative on violence against children. There is a big social cost to being bullied and these children face a greater risk of poor health, internalised stress, and suicidal thoughts.
Negative outcomes of bullying are now not only being reported in high-income countries, where the majority of research is conducted. A new briefing published by UNICEF’s Office of Research has looked at bullying among adolescents in low- and middle-income countries and the effect this has on young adults. It showed how adolescents in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam who were bullied by peers at age 15 tended to experience negative effects at age 19. These included lower self-esteem, a lower perception of their own success (known as self-efficacy) and more strained relationships with their peers and with their parents.
In our research, we wanted to look at the factors that increase the risk of bullying among particularly vulnerable children. The recent European immigration crisis, and in particular the situation in Italy and Greece, called our attention to the problem of bullying among migrant and refugee children attending Italian schools.
In 2013 and 2014, 9% of the Italian school pupil population were migrant and refugee children, according to data from the Italian Minister of Education Bullying of migrant and refugee children because of their migrant status, similar to victimisation of children of a particular ethnic group, is known as bias-based bullying.