Given the detrimental short- and long-term effects of peer-victimisation (Hawker & Boulton, 2000), it is not surprising that bullying has become a central topic for multiple parties; including stake-holders, the media, educators, and researchers. In addition to examining the effect that peer-victimisation can have on a child, researchers have also focused on associated risk and protective factors (e.g., Ttofi & Farrington, 2012) that exacerbate or ameliorate the effects of peer-victimisation respectively. Over the last few decades a wide-range of risk and protective factors have been identified, including poor academic achievement (Spriggs, Iannotti, Nansel, & Haynie, 2007), mental health issues (Sourander, Helstelä, Helenius, & Piha, 2000; Yang, Kim, Kim, Shin, & Yoon, 2006), exposure to child abuse and domestic violence (Bowes et al., 2009) and lack of parental involvement (Shields & Cicchetti, 2001). The following chapter will focus on one protective factor that has received increasing attention: friendship.
This chapter will begin by briefly presenting an overview as to the function of friendship in childhood before discussing evidence that suggests for some children, friendship can serve to protect against the experience of victimisation, and alleviate symptoms associated with peer-victimisation. In particular, the chapter will focus upon the different facets of friendship including: (1) the number of friends a child has, (2) the quality of these friendships, and (3) the individual characteristics of friends. The extent to which each of these three facets of friendship serve as a protective factor against peer-victimisation will be explored in turn. Paradoxically, friendship does not always function as a protective factor, but rather a child can be bullied by their friends. The ‘darker’ side of friendship will also be discussed, including why some children choose to stay friends with their perpetrator. Finally, this chapter will debate the effectiveness of peer support programs in schools and highlight areas that require further empirical focus.