Bullying in Recreation and Sport Settings: Exploring Risk Factors, Prevention Efforts, and Intervention Strategies


  • Charlene S. Shannon University of New Brunswick


bullying, peer victimization, youth, recreation and sport settings, prevention


Bullying is a social phenomenon defined as repeated negative actions that involve a differential of power whereby the individual who is more powerful attacks or harasses the individual who is less powerful with an intention to harm or disturb (Olweus, 1993). The social, emotional, and physical consequences for youth who are bullied are significant. Research on bullying, bullying prevention, and bullying intervention has focused mainly on the school settings and the role of school administrators and teachers (Monks et al., 2009). Bullying occurs in out-of-school settings including recreation and sport settings, but limited research exists. The purpose of the study was to explore (a) factors that are perceived as contributing to bullying behavior in youth-serving recreation and sport environments and (b) what administrators and staff do to prevent bullying and to respond when it occurs. Semistructured, face-to-face interviews were used to collect data in 31 youth-serving sport and recreation organizations from 31 administrators and 40 leaders, coaches, or supervisors representing 10 municipal recreation departments, 16 nonprofit organizations, and five commercial organizations in New Brunswick, Canada. The findings suggest organizational culture, program elements, bullying behaviors that begin in other settings, and peer group dynamics define perceptions of bullying as well as prevention and intervention efforts. Administrators trained staff to prevent and respond to bullying, developed procedures that communicated expectations related to behavior, and clearly expressed their values related to safe environments for program participants in an effort to create a climate that would not support bullying. Competitive environments, limited supervision, and unstructured time were program elements perceived as increasing the likelihood of bullying behaviors. Administrators and leaders worked at altering program elements to reduce opportunities for bullying behavior to develop or thrive. It was discovered that not all peer relationship problems begin within the recreation and sport context, but rather can spill over from school, neighborhood, or home settings. Finally, there was understanding that positive group norms need to be created and the ways in which groups are structured can influence a climate that can either promote supportive relationships or fuel bullying behaviors.

Author Biography

Charlene S. Shannon, University of New Brunswick

Associate Professor





Regular Papers