Document Type

Journal Article


Clifford Beers Foundation & University of Maryland


Computing, Health and Science


Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science, Child Health Promotion Research Centre




This article was originally published as: Burns, S. K., Maycock, B., Cross, D. S., & Brown, G. (2008). Woodpushers Are Gay: The Role of Provocation in Bullying. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 10(4), 41-50. Original article available here


This mixed-methods study found that upper primary school students who report that they bully others use the perception that they are provoked in some way to justify their bullying behaviour. While some students provided examples of subversive provocation in which the person being bullied was 'annoying', others used their own victimisation as a means to justify their bullying behaviour. Use of perceived provocation enabled students to shift the blame to the student being bullied and consequently to ease their feelings of dissonance over a potentially socially undesirable behaviour. The labelling of some students provided further justification of their behaviour for those who bullied others. Semi-structured one-to-one interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of Grade 7 students aged approximately 12 years (N = 51) who reported on a self-report questionnaire that they had bullied others, either regularly or occasionally, as part of a three-year randomised control trial bullying prevention intervention project.