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The Relationship between Bullying and Animal Cruelty Behaviours in Australian Adolescents. Nerida Robertson Eleonora Gullone. Clinical Similarities Between Animal Cruelty and Bullying.

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the relationship between bullying and animal cruelty behaviours in australian adolescents

The Relationship between Bullying and Animal Cruelty Behaviours in Australian Adolescents

Nerida Robertson

Eleonora Gullone

clinical similarities between animal cruelty and bullying
Clinical Similarities Between Animal Cruelty and Bullying
  • Two of the earliest symptoms of conduct disorder as defined by the DSM-IV-TR (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
  • First appear between 6.5 and 7 years of age, and when identified in early childhood, are valid indicators of childhood psychopathology (Frick et al., 1993).
clinical similarities cont
Clinical similarities (cont.)…

A history of childhood animal cruelty has been associated with

  • later delinquency and criminality (Arluke, Levin, Luke, & Ascione, 1999; Henry, 2004),
  • adult violence against humans (Merz-Perez, Heide, & Silverman, 2001) and,
  • antisocial personality disorder in adulthood Gleyzer, Felthouse, & Holzer, 2002)
clinical similarities cont4
Clinical similarities (cont.)…

Likewise, childhoodbullying behaviours have been linked to

  • delinquency (Baldry & Farrington, 2000; Rigby & Cox, 1996; Viljoen, O'Neill, & Sidhu, 2005),
  • a greater risk of adult antisocial behaviour (Haynie et al., 2001; Salmon, James, Cassidy, & Javaloyes, 2000)
  • and poor academic, social, emotional, behavioural and relationship outcomes (Hanish & Guerra, 2004; Toblin, Schwartz, Hopmeyer Gorman, & Abou-ezzeddine, 2005).
conceptual similarities between animal cruelty and bullying
Conceptual Similarities Between Animal Cruelty and Bullying
  • Definitions.
  • Common behaviours in childhood.
  • Predominantly observed in males.
1 definitions
1. Definitions

ANIMAL CRUELTY – “socially unacceptable behaviour that intentionally causes pain, suffering or distress to and/or death of an animal” (Ascione, 1993, p.228).

BULLYING – “involves a desire to hurt + a power imbalance + (typically) repetition + an unjust use of power + evident enjoyment by the aggressor and generally a sense of being oppressed on the part of the victim” (Rigby, 2002, p.51).

2 common behaviours in adolescence
2. Common Behaviours in Adolescence

Animal Cruelty:

  • Research has shown that between 17.6% and 20.5% of undergraduate students have engaged in animal cruelty (Flynn, 2000; Miller & Knutson, 1997).
  • Up to 50% of adolescents aged 9-17 years have reported engaging in animal cruelty (Baldry, 2003a)
2 common behaviours in adolescence cont
2. Common Behaviours in Adolescence (cont.)


  • Between 20% and 80% of youth admit to engaging in bullying other children

(Baldry, 1998; Bosworth, Espelage, & Simon, 1999; Hanish & Guerra, 2004; Salmon et al., 2000).

3 predominantly observed in males
3. Predominantly Observed in Males
  • Males have rates of animal cruelty behaviours that are four times higher than those of females (Flynn, 1999).
  • Males are more likely than females to engage in bullying behaviours (Baldry, 1998; Bosworth et al., 1999; Smith & Myron-Wilson, 1998; Veenstra et al., 2005).
exposure to violence and childhood animal cruelty and bullying
Exposure to Violence and Childhood Animal Cruelty and Bullying
  • Children exposed to domestic violence are at least twice as likely to report engaging in animal abuse than children from non-violent backgrounds (Baldry, 2003a; Currie, 2006).
exposure to violence cont
Exposureto Violence (cont.)
  • Children who have witnessed acts of animal cruelty, report significantly higher levels of engagement in animal cruelty, than their peers who have not witnessed animal cruelty (Thompson & Gullone, in press)
  • Children exposed to domestic violence are 1.8 times more likely to engage in bullying behaviours than those who were not exposed (Baldry, 2003b)
aims of the research
Aims of the Research

To investigate:

  • The relationship between animal cruelty behaviours in Australian adolescents and their concurrent bullying behaviours.
  • Factors which may predict or mediate the relationship between animal cruelty and bullying behaviours.
  • A sample of 241 (102 males & 139 female) students from Melbourne metropolitan secondary schools.
  • The sample consisted of adolescents aged between 12 and 16 years of age.
two questionnaires
Two Questionnaires
  • Physical and Emotional Tormenting Against Animals Scale (P.E.T.).
  • Peer Relations Questionnaire (PRQ).
p e t

Physical and Emotional Tormenting Against Animals Scale (P.E.T.)(Baldry, 2004). Measures two aspects of animal cruelty:

  • 5 “direct abuse” items: measure frequency of direct abuse (i.e., hurting, tormenting, bothering, hitting, and/or being cruel to an animal).
  • 4 “indirect abuse” items: measure frequency of witnessing abuse inflicted by others on animals (father, mother, peers, or other adults).

Peer Relations Questionnaire (PRQ)(Rigby & Slee, 1993)

  • 2 items (Section D) assessed incidents of being bullied, and frequency of being bullied.
  • 2 items (Section F) assessed frequency of participation in bullying, either as part of a group or individually.
prevalence rates
Prevalence Rates
  • 22.8% reported having committed at least one type of animal abuse (i.e., being cruel to, hitting, tormenting, bothering, and/or hurting).
  • 36.5% reported witnessing at least one act of animal cruelty perpetrated by another person.
prevalence rates cont
Prevalence Rates (cont.)
  • 17.8% of adolescent reported engaging in individual or group bullying.
  • 47.7% reported being the victims of bullying.
gender and age
Gender and Age
  • Males scored significantly higher than females on animal cruelty.
  • Older adolescents (14-16years) scored significantly higher than younger adolescents (12-13years) on animal cruelty.
  • No significant age or gender effects were found for bullying, witnessing of animal cruelty, or victimisation.
possible explanations of findings
Possible Explanations of Findings

When a child experiences home or school conditions

where they feel victimised, disturbed or abused;

  • They may seek to gain control over a being (human or non-human) who is less powerful (Gullone et al., 2002).
  • Their development of empathy may become disrupted resulting in lower than normative levels.
  • Further, such experiences are likely to promote a callous disregard for the welfare of others (Ascione, 1999; Lahey, Waldman, & McBurnett, 1999; Thompson & Gullone, 2003)
A child who grows up in a home where violence

to humans and/or animals is common;

  • May learn to generalise home violence to other areas of their lives including being cruel to animals and peers (Faver & Strand, 2003; Flynn, 2000; Pelcovitz, Kaplan, DeRosa, Mandel, & Salzinger, 2000).
  • This learned aggression may then play a causal role in the emergence of victimisation, whereby children who engage in such behaviours are at high risk for rejection by peers (Schwartz et al., 1999).
  • Peer rejection leads to active victimisation, which in turn, exacerbates aggression (Hay et al., 2004;).
  • Professionals working with children should not take lightly any instances when children are observed to either harm animals or their peers, since each is an indicator that the other may be co-occurring.
implications cont
Implications (cont.)
  • Given the findings relating to victimisation and witnessing, it is likely that the aggressive child’s environment may not be an optimally safe one.
  • The relationship between animal cruelty and bullying suggests that intervention strategies that are successfully applied to one behaviour may be equally successfully applied to the other behaviours.
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