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The relationship between mental health outcomes and bullying trajectories of students transitioning from primary school to high school

The transition from primary school to secondary school is an important developmental event in an adolescent’s life. Bullying at school appears to increase over this transition period as students deal with environmental, physical, psychological and social challenges. School bullying can have extensive physical, social and mental health consequences which last into adulthood. Current bullying intervention strategies used successfully in primary schools have been found to be less appropriate for high school students. The transition period would appear to be a critical opportunity to intervene with targeted bullying programs given the increased rates of bullying which appear to be associated with this event.

This research aims to develop empirically grounded policy and practice guidelines to promote the mental health of young people transitioning from primary school to secondary school. The research comprises three stages. Firstly, a thorough review of available empirical and descriptive literature will be conducted to guide the data analyses, interpretation and eventual development of recommendations for future policy and practice. Second, longitudinal data from students attending 21 Western Australian Catholic schools will be used to define trajectory groups of bullying victimisation over the transition period from primary to high school. Social and emotional behaviour predictors of membership in the different bullying victimisation trajectory groups will be determined. Mental health outcomes of Year 9 students in different bullying victimisation and perpetration trajectory groups will be compared. The changing nature of the social and emotional behaviour predictors of bullying victimisation and perpetration over the transition period will also be explored as well the relationship of bullying with other problem behaviours. The last stage will comprise translating the outcomes of the quantitative analysis into empirically grounded recommendations for guidelines for best practice in enhancing the mental health of young people who are involved in bullying behaviours and transitioning from primary to secondary school.

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Ms Leanne Lester
Professor Donna Cross
Dr Julian Dooley
Ms Thérèse Shaw

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