Professor Mike Boulton

Professor of Psychology

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

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

BOULTON, M.J., Boulton, L., Camerone, E., Down, J., Hughes, J., Kirkbride, C., Kirkham, R., Macaulay, P., & Sanders, J. (In press). Enhancing primary school children’s knowledge of online safety and risks with the CATZ co-operative cross-age teaching intervention: Results from a pilot study. CyberPsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

BOULTON, M.J. & Boulton, L. (In press). Modifying self-blame, self-esteem, and disclosure through a cooperative cross-age teaching intervention for bullying among adolescents. Violence and Victims.

BOULTON, M.J. (2014). Teachers' self-efficacy, perceived effectiveness beliefs, and reported use of cognitive-behavioral approaches to bullying among pupils: Effects of in-service training with the I DECIDE program. Behavior Therapy, 45, 328-343.

BOULTON, M.J., Hardcastle, K., Down, J. Simmonds, J., & Fowles, J. A. (2014). A comparison of pre-service teachers’ responses to cyber versus traditional bullying scenarios: Similarities and differences and implications for practice. Journal of Teacher Education, 65, 145-155.

BOULTON, M.J. (2014). High school pupils' understanding of peer counselling, and willingness to use it for different types of bullying. Pastoral Care in Education, 32, 95-103.

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. (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.

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., 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., 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. (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. (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., & 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., 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

Rotenberg, K., Addis, N., Betts, L., Corrigan, A., Fox, C., Hobson, Z., Rennison, S., Trueman, M., & BOULTON, M. J. (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., 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.

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., 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., 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. (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., Bishop, S., Baxandall, E., Holme, A., Smith, S., Vohringer, F., Boulton, L. (2007). Secondary school pupils' views of their school peer counselling for bullying service. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 7, 188-195.

BOULTON, M.J., Trueman, M., and Rotenberg, K. (2007). User perceptions of process-outcome linkages in pupil peer counselling for bullying services in the UK. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 35, 175-187.

Fox, C. and BOULTON, M.J. (2006). Longitudinal associations between social skills problems and different types of peer victimisation. Violence and Victims, 21, 383-400.

*Fox, C.L. and BOULTON, M.J. (2006). Friendship as a moderator of the relationship between social skills problems and peer victimisation. Aggressive Behavior, 32, 110-121.

BOULTON, M.J. (2005). School peer counselling for bullying services as a source of social support: An interview study with secondary school pupils. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 33, 485, 494.

Rotenberg, K., BOULTON, M.J. and Fox, C. (2005). Cross sectional relations among trust beliefs, psychological maladjustment and social relations during childhood: Are very high as well as very low trusting children at risk? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 33, 595-610

*Fox, C.L. and BOULTON, M.J. (2005). The Social Skills Problems of Victims of Bullying: Self, Peer and Teacher Perceptions. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75, 313-328

BOULTON, M.J. (2005). Predicting changes in children’s self-perceptions from playground social activities and interactions. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 23, 1-19

Tapper, K., & BOULTON, M.J. (2005). Victim and peer group responses to different forms of aggression among primary school children. Aggressive Behavior, 31, 238-253.

Rotenberg, K., McDougall, P.,BOULTON, M.J., Vaillancourt, T., Fox, C. and Hymell, S. (2004). Cross-sectional and longitudinal relations among relational trustworthiness, social relationships, and psychological adjustment during childhood and adolescence in the United Kingdom and Canada. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 88, 46-67.

*Tapper, K. & BOULTON, M.J. (2004). Sex differences in levels of physical, verbal and indirect aggression amongst primary school children and their associations with beliefs about aggression. Aggressive Behavior, 30, 123-145.

*Fox, C.L. and BOULTON, M.J. (2003). Evaluating the effectiveness of a social skills training programme for victims of bullying. Educational Research, 45, 231-247.

Fox, C.L. and BOULTON, M.J. (2003). A social skills training programme for victims of bullying. Pastoral Care in Education, 21 (2), 19-26.

*BOULTON, M.J., Trueman, M. and Flemington, I. (2002). Associations between secondary school pupils’ definitions of bullying, attitudes towards bullying, and tendencies to engage in bullying: Age and sex differences. Educational Studies, 28, 353-370.

Tapper, K. and BOULTON, M.J. (2002). Studying aggression in school children: The use of a wireless microphone and micro video camera. Aggressive Behavior, 28, 356-365.

BOULTON, M.J., Karellou, J., Lanitis, I., Manoussou, V., and Lemoni, O. (2001). Bullying and victimization in Greek primary school pupils: Linkages between attitudes and self-reported involvement. Psychology: The Journal of the Hellenic Psychological Society, 8, 12-29.

Tapper, K., and BOULTON, M.J. (2000). Social representations of physical, verbal and indirect aggression: Age and sex differences. Aggressive Behavior, 26, 442-545.

**Hawker, D.S.J and BOULTON, M.J. (2000). Twenty years’ research on peer victimization and psychosocial maladjustment. A meta-analytic review of cross-sectional studies. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41, 441-455.

*BOULTON, M.J., Trueman, M., Chau, C., Whitehand, C., and Amatya, K. (1999). Concurrent and longitudinal links between friendship and peer victimization: Implications for befriending interventions. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 461-466.

*BOULTON, M.J., Bucci, E., and Hawker, D. (1999). Swedish and English secondary school pupils’ attitudes towards, and conceptions of, bullying: Concurrent links with bully/victim involvement. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 40, 277-284.

*BOULTON, M.J. (1999). Concurrent and longitudinal relationships between children’s playground behaviour and social preference, victimization and bullying.  Child Development, 70, 944-954.

*BOULTON, M.J. (1997). Teachers’ views on bullying: Definitions, attitudes and ability to cope.  British Journal of Educational Psychology, 67, 223-233.

BOULTON, M.J. (1996). Partner preferences of British Asian and White girls and boys on the middle school playground: Do they vary as a function of activity? Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 11, 25-34.

BOULTON, M.J. (1996). Bullying in mixed sex groups of children.  Educational Psychology, 16, 439-443.

BOULTON, M. J. (1996). A comparison of 8 and 11 year old girls’ and boys’ participation in specific types of rough-and-tumble play and aggressive fighting: Implications for functional hypotheses.  Aggressive Behavior, 22, 271-287.

BOULTON, M. J. and Flemington, I. (1996). The effects of a short video intervention on secondary school pupils’ involvement in, definitions of, and attitudes towards, bullying.  School Psychology International, 17, 331-345.

BOULTON, M. J. (1996). Lunchtime supervisors’ attitudes towards playful fighting, and ability to differentiate between playful and aggressive fighting: An intervention study.  British Journal of Educational Psychology, 66, 367-381.

BOULTON, M. J. and Smith, P. K. (1996). Peer perceptions and liking among Asian and White British children.   Journal of Social and Personal Relations, 13, 163-177.

*O’Neill, S. and BOULTON, M. J. (1996). Boys’ and girls’ preferences for musical instruments:  A function of gender?  The Psychology of Music, 24, 171-183.

BOULTON, M. J. (1995). Playground behaviour and peer interaction patterns of primary school boys classified as bullies, victims and non-involved.  British Journal of Educational Psychology, 65, 165-177.

BOULTON, M. J.  (1995). Patterns of bullying/victim problems in mixed race groups of children. Social Development, 4, 277-293.

BOULTON, M.J. (1995).  Play-fighting in adolescents: Age and sex differences in participation.  International Play Journal, 3, 97-112.

*BOULTON, M. J. and Smith, P. K. (1994). Bully/victim problems in middle school children: Stability, self-perceived competence, peer perceptions, and peer acceptance. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12, 315-329.

Smith, P. K., BOULTON, M. J. and Cowie, H. (1993). The impact of co-operative group work on ethnic relations in middle school. School Psychology International, 14, 21-42.

BOULTON, M.J. (1993). A comparison of adults' and children's abilities to distinguish between aggressive and playful fighting:  Implications for playground supervision and behaviour management.  Educational Studies, 19, 193-203.

BOULTON, M. J. (1993). Children's abilities to distinguish between playful and aggressive fighting: A developmental perspective. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 11, 249-263.

BOULTON, M.J. (1993). Aggressive fighting in British middle school children.  Educational Studies, 19, 19-39.

BOULTON, M. J. (1993). Proximate causes of aggressive fighting in middle school children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 63, 231-244.

**BOULTON, M. J. and Underwood, K. (1992). Bully/victim problems among middle school children.  British Journal of Educational Psychology, 62, 73-87.

BOULTON M. J. and Smith, P. K. (1992). Ethnic preferences and perceptions among Asian and white British middle school children. Social Development, 1, 55-66.

BOULTON M. J. (1992). Participation in playground activities at middle school.  Educational Research, 34, 167-182.

BOULTON, M. J. (1992). Rough physical play in adolescence: Does it serve a dominance function? Early Education and Development, 3, 312-333.

BOULTON, M. J. (1991). Partner preferences in middle school children's playful fighting and chasing: A test of some competing functional hypotheses.  Ethology and Sociobiology, 12 177-193.

BOULTON, M. J. (1991). A comparison of structural and contextual features of middle school children's playful and aggressive fighting. Ethology and Sociobiology, 12, 119-145.

Constable, A., Smith, P. K., Matheson, L., Aston, J., Hunter, T. and BOULTON, M. J. (1991). A cross-national comparison of how children distinguish serious and playful fighting.  Developmental Psychology, 27, 881-887.

*Smith, P. K. and BOULTON, M. J. (1990). Rough and tumble play, aggression and dominance: Perception and behaviour in children's encounters. Human Development, 33, 271-282.

BOULTON, M. J. and Smith P. K. (1990). Affective bias in children's perceptions of dominance relationships. Child Development, 61, 221-229.

Smith, P. K. and BOULTON, M. J. (1989). El juego do peleas;  parecidos y diferencias respector del comportamiento agresivo infantile. Investigacion en la Escuels, 8, 35-41.

BOULTON, M. J. and Smith, P. K. (1989). Rough and tumble play in children: Research and theory. Infancia Aprendizaje, 48, 79-91.


*100+ citations on Google Scholar; **1000+ citations on Google Scholar.

Professional journal articles

BOULTON, M.J. (2005). It's all my fault: self-blame among victims of bullying. Young Minds, 74, 16.

BOULTON, M.J. (1998).  Rough-and-tumble play in Primary school children: A beneficial form of social play or an excuse for aggression? Topic, 20, 1-4.

BOULTON, M.J. and Hawker, D.S.J. (1997).  Non-physical forms of bullying among school pupils: A cause for concern.  Health Education, 2, 61-64.

BOULTON, M. J. and Hawker, D. (1996).  Emotional and psychological bullying.  Young Minds, 26, 8-9.

O’Neill, S. and BOULTON, M.J. (1995). His `n’ hers?  Is there a gender bias towards musical instruments?  Music Journal, 60, 358-359.

BOULTON, M.J. and Flemington, I. (1995).  Tackling the problem of school bullying with an anti-bullying video:  A cost-effective first step?  Links 2, 2, 20-22.

BOULTON, M. J. (1991). In defence of playtime: The positive side to life on the primary school playground. Links, 16(3), 21-23.

BOULTON, M. J. (1991). Bullying in school children. Links, 16 (2) 8-11.

Smith, P. K. and BOULTON, M. J. (1987). How rough is rough and tumble? Set: Research Information for Teachers, 1, Item 11.

BOULTON, M.J. and Smith, P. K. (1986). Rough and tumble play in children: Environmental influences. Playworld Journal, 1, 11-15.

Authored books

Cowie, H., Smith, P.K., BOULTON, M.J. and Laver, R.  (1995). Co-operation in the Multi-Ethnic Classroom. London:  David Fulton. (214 pages).

Chapters in books

BOULTON, M. J. and Smith, P. K. (1990). Issues in the study of rough and tumble play. In M. Block and A. Pellegrini (Eds), The Ecological Context of Children's Play (New Jersey: Ablex) pp. 57-83.

BOULTON, M. J. and Smith, P. K. (1991).  Bullying and withdrawn children.  In V. Varma (Ed), Truants from Life (London: Fulton) pp. 18-30.

Cowie, H., BOULTON, M. J. and Smith, P. K. (1992). Bullying: Pupil relationships. In N. Jones and E. Jones (Eds), Learning to behave: curriculum and whole school approaches to discipline (London: Kogan Page) pp. 85-101.

*BOULTON, M. J. and Smith, P. K. (1992).  The social nature of play fighting and play chasing: Mechanisms underlying co-operation and compromise. In J. L. Barkow, L. Cosmides and J. Tooby (Eds), The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary psychology and the evolution of culture (New York: Oxford University Press) pp. 429-444.

BOULTON M. J. and Smith, P. K. (1993). Ethnic, gender partner, and activity preferences in mixed-race schools in the UK: playground observations.  In C. H. Hart (Ed), Children on Playgrounds (New York: State University of New York Press) pp. 210-237.

BOULTON, M. J. (1993). The relationship between playful and aggressive fighting in children, adolescents and adults.  In J. Archer (Ed), Male Violence (London: Routledge) pp. 23-41.

BOULTON, M. J. (1994). Playful and aggressive fighting in the middle school playground. In P. Blatchford and S. Sharp (Eds), School breaktimes and playgrounds: Behaviour, management and design (London: Routledge) pp. 49-62.

BOULTON, M. J. (1994). Understanding and preventing bullying in the junior school playground. In P. K. Smith and S. Sharp (Eds), School bullying: Insights and perspectives (London:  Routledge) pp. 148-181.

BOULTON, M. J. (1994). How to prevent and respond to bullying behaviour in the junior/middle school playground. In S. Sharp and P. K. Smith (Eds), Tackling Bullying in Your School (London: Routledge) pp. 103-132.

BOULTON, M.J. and Hawker, D.S.J. (1997).  Verbal bullying: The myth of ‘sticks and stones’.  In D. Tattum and G. Herbert (Eds), Bullying: Home, School and Community (London: David Fulton) pp. 53-63.

BOULTON, M.J. (2000). Bullying in schools: Changing attitudes and behaviour. In J. Hartley and A. Branthwaite (Eds), The Applied Psychologist (2nd edition) (Buckingham: Open University Press) pp. 211-225.

Hawker, D.S.J., and BOULTON, M.J. (2001). Subtypes of peer harassment and their correlates: A social dominance perspective. In J. Juvonen and S. Graham (Eds.), Peer harassment in school: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized (New York: Guilford Press).