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New study shows that Danish children quit leisure activities because of bullying

18 February 2013

More than one in eight Danish children has dropped out of a leisure activity because of bullying. This has been borne out by a new study conducted by the Danish Center for Ungdomsstudier (centre for youth studies) on behalf of The Mary Foundation and Save the Children Denmark. Taking this new study as their starting point, these two organisations will now join forces with the TrygFonden foundation to shine a spotlight on bullying in leisure activities – and to do something about the problem.

Fortunately, most children thrive in their spare time. However, a new study by Center for Ungdomsstudier shows that one in every four Danish children in grades 3-5 has experienced being teased, bullied or excluded by other children during a leisure activity. In addition, 13.8% of all the children in the study stopped participating in the leisure activity concerned due to bullying. In other words, more than one in eight Danish children quits a leisure activity due to a failure to thrive.

“Children join leisure activities out of interest. In these cases, when they decide to drop out, it is not because their interest has waned, but because they are unable to thrive socially. This is important knowledge for leisure and sports organisations. We have been focusing on bullying in schools for many years now, and this has reduced the number of children subjected to bullying. Now it’s time to focus on bullying in connection with sports and leisure activities,” contends bullying expert Helle Rabøl Hansen, a member of The Mary Foundation’s panel of experts on bullying and well-being.

Parents are often unaware of their children’s experiences of bullying during their leisure activities. Only 7.5% of parents of the children who have dropped out of a leisure activity because of bullying are aware of quite serious incidents; 37.5% indicate that they are aware of less serious incidents; and 55% of the parents are unaware of any incidents. These figures show that more than half of the parents of children who have been bullied to the point where they have quit a leisure activity are completely oblivious to their children’s experiences.

“This study confirms that bullying in leisure activities is a big and overlooked problem. Many parents are not even aware of the fact that their child has stopped participating in a leisure activity because of bullying; and the fact that a child can decide to drop out of a leisure activity increases the risk of this problem remaining hidden. This is why we – in collaboration with Save the Children Denmark – are now focusing on bullying and well-being in leisure activities,” says The Mary Foundation’s director, Helle Østergaard.

The Mary Foundation and Save the Children Denmark have collaborated on the Free of Bullying programme since 2007. This programme aims to prevent bullying in preschools and the early years of primary school through healthy children’s communities. In collaboration with the TrygFonden foundation, the new study will be followed up in the autumn of 2013 with efforts aimed at children’s participation in leisure activities.  

The study of children’s experiences of bullying in leisure activities is an excerpt from the “Børneliv version 2.0” (“The life of children, version 2.0”) study, which is conducted by Center for Ungdomsstudier and published on 21 February.

Facts

  • The study was commissioned by The Mary Foundation and Save the Children Denmark and carried out by Center for Ungdomsstudier (centre for youth studies). The chapter on Children and bullying in leisure activities is part of the “Børneliv version 2.0” (“The life of children, version 2.0”), which was published on 21 February.
  • 1,120 pupils in grades 3-5 from 20 schools across Denmark have each completed a questionnaire. In order to compare children’s and parents’ perspectives, 294 parents of a group of children have each completed a questionnaire which deals with some of the same issues as the children were asked to consider.
  • In general, the study paints a picture indicating that most children are doing well; nevertheless, a surprisingly large proportion of children (13.8%) have experienced bullying to the extent that they have decided to stop participating in the leisure activity concerned.
  • The majority of parents of the children who have been bullied to the point where they have dropped out of a leisure activity are unaware of the bullying.
  • Since 2007, The Mary Foundation and Save the Children Denmark have jointly been running the Free of Bullying project, an anti-bullying programme aimed at children in preschools and the early years of primary school.  Free of Bullying focuses on fostering healthy children’s communities based on the values tolerance, respect, care and courage. Knowledge gained from the Free of Bullying programme will form the basis of the new initiative, which will be launched by The Mary Foundation and Save the Children Denmark after the summer holidays and will focus on children’s well-being in leisure.

 

The Mary Foundation’s experts affiliated to the Bullying and Well-being focus area

Professor Jan Kampmann, Roskilde University Centre
Candidate of Law, PhD fellow Helle Rabøl Hansen, Department of Education (DPU), Aarhus University
Professor Dorte Marie Søndergaard, Danish School of Education (DPU), Aarhus University
Candidate of Psychology, specialist in psychotherapy, Conni Gregersen
CEO Judith Slocombe, The Alannah and Madeline Foundation