Background Bullying refers to repeated aggression in relationships with an imbalance of power. Children with disabilities experience more bullying than children without disabilities, but research with this population is scarce. The objective of this retrospective, mixed-methods study was to examine the prevalence and characteristics of bullying victimisation among students with disabilities.
Methods Participants were 161 college students with disabilities, who were registered at the university’s Disability Resource Centre. The sample was mostly female (78%), White (62%), and full-time students (90%). The mean age of participants was 22.4 years. Participants completed an electronic survey, which queried respondents about frequency of physical, verbal, relational, and cyber bullying victimisation during middle and high school. The survey also included open-ended questions about examples of bullying and a selected sample was interviewed (n = 10).
Results The majority of participants (69%) experienced bullying victimisation during middle and high school. Relational bullying was the most common type of victimisation reported (63%), followed by verbal (38%), cyber (24%), and physical (18%). Approximately 40% of participants reported they believed the aggression was related to their disability. Most of the aggression took place during middle school (35%) or in both middle and high school (26%). Participants with Pervasive Developmental Disorders experienced the highest level of bullying victimisation, followed by Learning Disabilities, Sensory Disorders, and Psychological Disorders. Unexpectedly, some participants reported bullying from teachers and school staff. Examples of bullying are provided.
Conclusions Participants in this study experienced bullying at a rate that is 3 times higher than students from the general population. Suggestions for intervention and further research are discussed.
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