The story of the Ugly Duckling, kicking off the Bullies, Bullied and Bystanders Conference with song

Our day here at the Bullies, Bullied and Bystnaders Conference at Dublin City University started with song as the talented students from a local school opened the conference in full voice.  One of the songs they chose was ‘Different’ from the musical Honk about the Ugly Duckling.  This is an interesting story to reflect on, his grey feathers were ridiculed amongst the other ducklings but he then becomes a beautiful swan.  What do we learn from this story?  Be careful who you tease, they might end up more attractive than you?  

Could we learn another lesson too?

Celebrate our differences, they make us who we are and whether that is the supermodel of the bird family (the swan) or the outcast fuzzy grey duckling, we should have the freedom and safety to express ourselves without scorn or harassment!





The music was followed by an incredible Keynote speaker, Peter K. Smith from Goldsmiths, University of London in the UK who has been involved in reserach around Child Development for over 25 years and in bullying for many years also.  His latest reseacrh has been Investigating and Understanding Cross-National Differences in Bullying


He opened by identifying three different approaches to bullying research when comparisons are being made in different countries:

  • Absolutist (etic) approach- the same everywhere
  • Universalist approach-some similarities, some differences
  • Relativist approach-unique to each culture

Peter’s view is Universalist, there are both similarities and differences:


Concept Criteria (intent to harm, repetition, imbalance of power)

Main types (physical, verbal, exclusion, relational, cyber)

Age changes

Gender differences

Negative outcomes of being a victim



Who bullies whom (e.g. same age or older to younger)

Where bullying happens (classroom or playground)

Weighting of different types (e.g. social exclusion more important in Japan, South Korea)

Ratio of bullies to victims


He had some interesting comparisons of data collected across countries including the TIMMs study that NZ takes part in.

Another one involving 40 cartoon drawings that asked participants to identify whether the drawing was bullying (or the related word in another language, e.g. Ijime in Japanese

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In Non-Western countries, such as Japan and Korea actions involving social exclusion were identified as Ijime or Bullying far more than in Western Countries.

These differences in perception make comparisons between rates of bullying behaviours in different countries far more difficult and involved than is often thought.

This also opens up a number of questions of not only differences between NZ and other Western countries but also about differences between our regions depending on the perceptions of the cultures living there.

What are your thoughts??



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