Professor Mike Boulton


Dr Mike Boulton helps co-ordinate the research activities in the department, and teaches on a number of core and optional modules. His research focuses on children’s positive and negative social relationships, and their links with psychological wellbeing.


Mike's PhD, awarded in 1988 by the University of Sheffield, addressed evolutionary and psychological theories about children’s playful and aggressive fighting. He holds a number of practical and vocational qualifications notably a Certificate in Higher Education Teaching (University of Keele), a Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling (University of Keele), British Psychological Society Certificates in Occupational Testing (Psychometrics) at Level A (Aptitude and Ability) and Level B (Personality, Interests), and a Certificate in Stress Management (Centre for Stress Management, London).


His teaching is primarily in the areas of social psychology, developmental psychology, individual differences, and research methods and statistics. Mike has been lecturing and researching within higher education for over 20 years. His research interests focus on the links between social relationships, particularly bully-victim relationships, and psychological well-being.

Mike is a member of the Ethics Committee and helps co-ordinate research activities within the department. He is the departmental representative on the University Postgraduate Degree sub-Committee and the Research Policy and Practice sub-Committee.



Mike is module leader of Becoming a Psychological Researcher (PS5015) and he also makes a major contribution to Psychological Research Methods (PS4005). He supervises final year dissertation students (PS6001) and delivers specialist lectures in Applications of Psychology to Education (PS4016), History and Applications of Psychology (PS4012) and Developmental Psychology (PS6002). At postgraduate level, he is module leader for Practical Skills for Research (PS7302), guest lectures on various modules, and is involved in PhD supervision.


Mike has been researching children’s social relationships and their links with adjustment for over 25 years. He is acknowledged as an international expert on bullying among school pupils. He also studies positive/supporting relationships as exemplified by friendships.

He is particularly interested in how the negative effects of abusive peer relationships may be moderated and mitigated, and how perpetrators may be encouraged and enabled to change their behaviour in a pro-social direction. A current project is examining the effects of using older pupils to help younger pupils develop pro-social patterns of thinking and behaving. His work is guided by a number of theories, including Baumeister and Leary's (1995) need to belong theory, and broader social cognition theory.

Published work

Some examples of recent publications

Boulton, M.J. (2008). Pupils' perceptions of bullying and disruptions to concentration and attention to school work. Pastoral Care in Education, 26, 83-89.

Boulton, M.J., Trueman, M. and Murray, L. (2008). Associations between peer victimisation, fear of future victimisation and disrupted classroom concentration among junior school pupils. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 473-489.

Boulton, M.J., Chau, C., Whitehand, C., Amataya, K. and Murray, L. (2009). Concurrent and short-term longitudinal associations between peer victimisation and school and recess liking during middle childhood. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 207-221.

Boulton, M.J., Duke, E., Holman, G., Laxton, E., Nicholas, B., Spells, R., Williams, E. and Woodmansey, H. (2009). Associations between being bullied, perceptions of safety in classroom and playground, and relationship with teacher among primary school pupils. Educational Studies, 35, 255-267.

Boulton, M.J., Smith, P.K. & Cowie, H. (2010). Short-term longitudinal relationships between children's peer victimization/bullying experiences and self-perceptions: Evidence for reciprocity. School Psychology International, 31, 296-311.

Rotenberg, K., Addis, N., Betts, L., Corrigan, A., Fox, C., Hobson, Z., Rennison, S., Trueman, M. & Boulton, M. (2010). The relation between trust beliefs and loneliness during early childhood, middle childhood and adulthood. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 1086-1100.

Boulton, M.J., Don, J., & Boulton, L. (2011). Predicting children’s liking of school from their peer relationships. The social Psychology of Education, 14, 489-501. DOI 10.1007/s11218-011-9156-0

Boulton, M.J. & Boulton, R.J (2012). Resistant to the message: Are pupils unresponsive to teachers’ anti-bullying initiatives and if so why? Educational Studies, 38, 485-489. 

Boulton, M.J. (2012). Children's hostile attribution bias is reduced after watching realistic playful fighting and the effect is mediated by prosocial thoughts. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 113, 36-48.

Boulton, M.J. (2012). Associations between adults' recalled childhood bullying victimization, current social anxiety, coping and self-blame: Evidence for moderation and indirect effects. Anxiety, Stress and Coping, 26, 270-292.

Boulton, M.J., Woodmansey, H., Williams, E., Spells, R., Nicholas, B., Laxton, E., Holman, G., & Duke, E. (2012). Associations between peer bullying and classroom concentration: evidence for mediation by perceived personal safety and relationship with teacher. Educational Psychology, 32, 277-294.

Boulton, M.J., Lloyd, J., Down, J., & Marx, H. (2012). Predicting university students' self-reported engagement in cyber-bullying and traditional bullying from attitudes. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 15, 141-7.

Boulton, M.J., Murphy, D., Lloyd, J., Besling, S., Coote, J., Lewis, J., Perrin, R., & Walsh, R. (2013). Helping counts: Predicting children's intentions to disclose being bullied to teachers from prior social support experiences. British Educational Research Journal, 39, 209-221.

Boulton, M.J. (2013). The effects of victim of bullying reputation on adolescents’ choice of friends: Mediation by fear of becoming a victim, moderation by victim status, and implications for befriending interventions. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 114, 146-60.

Rotenberg, K, & Boulton, M.J. (2013). Interpersonal trust consistency and the quality of peer relationships during childhood. Social Development, 22, 225-241.

Boulton, M.J. (in press). High school pupils' understanding of peer counselling, and willingness to use it for different types of bullying. Pastoral Care in Education.

Boulton, M.J., Hardcastle, K., Down, J. Simmonds, J., & Fowles, J. A. (in press). A comparison of pre-service teachers’ responses to cyber versus traditional bullying scenarios: similarities and differences and implications for practice. Journal of Teacher Education.