School Bullying Among Students With Intellectual Disabilities: Predictors, Outcomes, and Recommendations

School Bullying Among Students With Intellectual Disabilities: Predictors, Outcomes, and Recommendations

Michelle F. Wright (Pennsylvania State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1223-4.ch003
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School bullying research began in the 1970s through seminal research conducted on these experiences among Norwegian boys. From this initial research, multiple studies have been conducted over the past 40 years, revealing the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of school bullying. More recent investigations have also focused on cyberbullying, bullying using information and communication technologies (e.g., cell phones). Little attention has been given to school bullying involvement among students with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual disabilities. The handful of studies on this topic suggest that these students experience internalizing (e.g., depression, anxiety, loneliness) and externalizing (e.g., aggression, antisocial behaviors) difficulties associated with their involvement in school bullying. The aim of this chapter is to review multidisciplinary research concerning school bullying among students with intellectual disabilities and to make recommendations for public policy and prevention programs as well as future research.
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Students with disabilities benefit from inclusion in the same schools as their nondisabled peers. Research findings also suggest that nondisabled peers benefit from this inclusion as well (Buckley, Bird, Sacks, & Archer, 2002; Lindsay & McPherson, 2012; Richardson, 1996; Sailor, Wolf, Choi, & Roger, 2009; Tomasik, 2007). Therefore, disabled and nondisabled students benefit from having an inclusive school environment where there is potential for social interactions among a variety of students with different

backgrounds. There is also evidence that such inclusion does not reduce test scores, grades, or instructional time, further suggesting the necessity of inclusion for students with disabilities (Sirlopu et al., 2008; Stahmer, Carter, Baker, & Miwa, 2003; Salend & Duhaney, 1999; York, Vandercook, MacDonald, Heise-Neff, & Caughey, 1992).

The total number of students with disabilities in inclusion education varies based on students’ location within the United States. In particular, students from the Eastern United States are more frequently assigned to segregated classrooms (Kurth, 2014). In addition, some states (e.g., Iowa, Minnesota, West Virginia) favor inclusion, while other states (e.g., Florida, New Jersey, South Carolina) prefer the restrictive setting for students with disabilities. Overall, 50% of disabled students from the ages of 6 to 11 are

in regular classrooms around 80% of the day, while 30% of disabled students from the ages of 12 and higher are in such classrooms (Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education, 2011). Regardless of the differences in these rates, it is clear that a variety of students with disabilities spend some time learning in the regular classroom.

Although there are benefits to the inclusion of students with disabilities in the school environment, additional attention is needed to promote a more welcoming environment as these students are often victims of school bullying (Mishna, 2003). Welcoming school environments are not always something students with disabilities experience as bullying is frequently a direct result of their disability, especially if the students’ disability is more visible in inclusion environments (Verdugo, Bernejo, & Fuertes, 1995; Waldman, Swerdloff, & Perlman, 1999; Whitney, Smith & Thompson, 1994). In addition, students with disabilities are also rejected by their peers, a risk factor associated with victimization and bullying perpetration (Fox, 1989; Kistner & Gatlin, 1989; Martlew & Hodson, 1991; Morrison, Furlong, & Smith, 1994). Being rejected by one’s peers can lead to isolation and other consequences, such as depression, loneliness, and anxiety. Furthermore, peer rejection can affect academic engagement and achievement, which are vital to the long-term functioning of these students.

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