Bullying Experiences of Disabled Children

Reading time: 2
shutterstock_108383702 Stop Bullying child hands


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

Is there any association between disability and bullying in childhood and adolescence?

Research conducted by the University of Warwick suggests that children and young people with disabilities are more likely to be bullied at school compared to those students with no known disabilities.

In this post, I highlight disability and its association with young people who are at a higher risk of being bullied as both children and teenagers.


The Millennium Cohort Study follows approximately 19,000 children born between 2000-2002, while Next Steps focuses on the lives of around 16,000 people born in 1989-1990. These studies allowed researchers to examine the prevalence of school bullying in early childhood (age 7) and adolescence (age 15).

Are disabled children and young people at higher risk of being bullied?

Table 1 above shows that disabled children and young people were more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled peers. In the MCS the difference between non-disabled and disabled children is largest when looking at children who report being bullied ‘all of the time’. In the LSYPE, young people who were disabled were particularly likely to experience relational bullying – being called names or being excluded from a group of friends.

Results underlined that children and young people with long-standing limiting conditions such as muscular dystrophy or mobility difficulties, as well as those with Special Educational Needs were at a higher risk of bullying. These associations between disability and bullying remained even when other characteristics known to influence bullying were taken into account.”

Are disabled children and young people at higher risk of being bullied?

Figure 1 above shows that, in the MCS, 55 per cent of children with SEN experienced bullying ‘some’ or ‘all’ of the time once background and individual risk factors were taken into account. In contrast, 47 per cent of children without SEN reported being bullied at all, a difference of eight percentage points. Similarly, 53-57 per cent of children with a Statement of Needs, LSLI or DD experienced bullying ‘some’ or ‘all’ of the time, compared to 47-48 per cent of those without.


Research demonstrates that there is an association between disability with bullying in both early childhood and adolescence, even after other factors that affect the risk of being bullied have been taken into account. These findings raise concerns for the well-being of more vulnerable children, and the potential long-term consequences for their future lives.

It is important that we continue to raise awareness in our schools.”

This animation contains some language which viewers may find offensive

Further reading:

You can read more about the study here and download a summary paper here. This study was published by the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick (2014) in collaboration with with Sam Parsons (IOE) and Professor Lucinda Platt (LSE).


@TeacherToolkit logo new book Vitruvian man TT


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.