Bullied because she stood out in class for not wearing designer clothes

 

Susan left school at the age of 14 after being kicked unconscious by five of her classmates. The attack was the culmination of two years of bullying of the teenager, who wore "crap" trainers and had no father.

Susan, who had been left with recurring nightmares and prescribed sleeping tablets, told researchers she stood out in class because she did not wear designer stuff.

"All the kids have designer names and we haven't," she said. "We stick out and we're picked on. Look at these crap runners I'm wearing. My ma can't afford to get me the right ones, and it's terrible when you can't afford the right ones. You have no choice but we couldn't afford it so I was the one that got picked on. I would rather commit suicide than go back to that school."

Susan's experience of standing out because she did not sport the right designer clothes was a common one among children and parents in the survey of 30 low-income families.

No more than a quarter of children felt satisfied with their lives, the survey found. Their concerns included the pressure of trying to "fit in" with peers and a fear of being different. The "right" clothes emerged as a crucial prerequisite for being accepted by contemporaries. Certain brands had to be bought, despite the expense, to increase the children's chances of "fitting in".

Parents were conscious of the high price that might be paid if their children did not meet the dress standards of their peers. "If he needed clothes or runners you'd have to get the stuff in Champion Sports or he might get slagged at school," said one parent.

One 14-year-old girl from a lone-mother household said if her mother couldn't afford any of the main brand names, she would try to get runners with no names. "You can pretend with the ones with no name. Sometimes I make them all dirty so that it looks as if they're designer but you can't see the name right," she said.

Families also felt unsafe in their neighbourhoods, with a third of people saying they felt bullied. This was not necessarily by neighbours, but by people operating locally such as so-called joyriders and drug dealers, said the report's co-author, Prof Mary Daly.

Single mothers told researchers they were targeted in their neighbourhoods because they did not live with a man. One woman had people drinking and drug addicts shooting up in her back garden. "They picked her garden because they knew she couldn't get rid of them," said Prof Daly.