Professor Ian Rivers CPsychol FBPsS


Professor of Human Development

Room: Halsbury Building HB221
Brunel University London
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)1895 267636
Fax: +44 (0)1895 269769

About Ian

Ian Rivers' research on students' mental health shows that students who witness bullying are more likely to use tobacco or alcohol, to be depressed, and to miss or skip school.

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, 21st September, 2011

Washington, D.C.

Professor Ian Rivers is probably one of the foremost global authorities on homophobic and transphobic bullying and its potential harm to LGBT children and adolescents, as well as its cumulative effects on LGBT adults in later life., 1st September, 2013.


I am a developmental psychologist and HCPC registered health psychologist specialising in the study of the mental health correlates of bullying behaviour. Since the early 1990s, my research has focused on understanding the reasons why some people bully others, why some people are bullied, and why some people feel unable to stop bullying when they see it.

As a result of my research I recently served on two expert panels convened by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

The first panel’s goal was to develop a uniform definition of bullying that will guide public health surveillance of bullying behaviours/experiences in the U.S., and identify/recommend critical data elements that should be captured in support of public health surveillance of those bullying behaviours or experiences. The report and recommendations for the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) was published on the 22nd January, 2014.

The second panel, convened by the Division of Adolescent School Health (DASH) focused on understanding the relationship between youth involvement in bullying, and suicide–related behaviours including attempts, fatalities, and risk factors associated with suicide. The research studies underpinning the discussions of this expert panel were published in The Journal of Adolescent Health in June, 2013 and synthesised into a report published by the CDC entitled:

The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide: What We Know and What it Means for Schools.

I also write for the Times Educational Supplement (TES) and for the American journal 'The New Civil Rights Movement':

Recent Articles in the Times Educational Supplement (TESPro)

Empower Pupils to Beat the Bullies (11th May, 2012)

Homophobia Hasn’t Gone Away (20th June, 2012)

Bully and Victim: Busting the Myths (29th June, 2012)

Bruises Fade but the Hurt Remains (17th August, 2012)

Sport Can Bring Out The Bullies (12th October, 2012)

Bullying is a Political Issue (30th November, 2012)

The Path to Sexual Violence (25th January, 2013)

Should We Lay Down the Law (1st March, 2013)

Closing the Book on Discrimination (4th April, 2013)

Intervention is Half the Battle Against Bullying (3rd May, 2013)

Get Parents Onside to Combat Bullying (7th June, 2013)

To Tackle Bullying, You Need to Define It (5th July, 2013)

Protect the Witnesses (20th September, 2013)

How To Be A Leading Light (15th November, 2013)

Behaviour - We Have The Weapons To Beat Cyberbullying

(10th February, 2014)

Before You Act, Test the Evidence (2nd May, 2014)



Recent Articles in The New Civil Rights Movement (

From Over the Pond: LGBT Reflections on a Recent Visit to America (9th July, 2011)

Focusing on Anti-Gay Student Bullying: When America Gets it Right (16th October, 2011)

Tennessee Pro-Bullying Bill: Exactly Whom is it Designed to Protect? (5th January, 2012)

The Silence of Our Friends: Why Anti-Gay Bullying Survives (4th May, 2012)

Reflections on Romney: Why Being ‘A Bully’ is No Laughing Matter (12th May, 2012)

Dharun Ravi and Liam Stacey: Online Bias Intimidation Explored(27th May, 2012) 


Fellow, the British Psychological Society (2010) 

Fellow, the American Psychological Association (2007)

For over fifteen years his research career has established a foundation of knowledge on the bullying and victimization of sexual minority youth that has formed the basis of research in the U.S. and in other English-speaking countries. This seminal work described different forms of bullying in elementary and high schools (APA Division 44 Newsletter, 23[3], p. 6).

Honorary Member, LGBT Youth Scotland (2006)

British Psychological Society’s Award for Promoting Equality of Opportunity (2001)

Ian’s contribution is recognised at many levels ranging from government policy to advice to individuals. He has a deep personal commitment to his chosen field, he is prepared to persuade people to take the bullying issue seriously, and defend them when they do. Future generations of young gay and lesbian youth will owe Ian a debt of gratitude, even though they will probably never know his name (The Psychologist, 14[9], p. 493). 


University of Strathclyde, Visiting Professor, School of Psychological Sciences and Health (2013-2016)

Anglia Ruskin University, Visiting Professor, Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education (2010-2015)

York St John College, Visiting Professor, School of Sport Science and Psychology (2005-2006)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA, Visiting Fellow (2004-2005)

Lund University, Sweden, Visiting Lecturer, Department of Sociology (1995)


I also work with a number of community-based organisations and charities.

I am a community governor and director of Uxbridge High School Academy Trust 

I am patron of two organisations:

LGBT History Month

LGBT History Month is an annual celebration (every February) of the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It honours the achievements of those LGBTs who have made a substantial contribution to our history. In 2013, we celebrate the endeavours of those scientists, technologists, mathematicians and engineers who not only led their respective fields but, like Alan Turing, made a lasting contribution through his endeavours to break the enigma code during World War II.


FFLAG is a national voluntary organisation and registered charity. It is dedicated to supporting parents and their lesbian, gay and bisexual daughters and sons. It offers support to local parents groups and contacts, in their efforts to help parents and families understand, accept and support their lesbian, gay and bisexual members with love and pride. It provides a central point for exchange of information between parents groups and local parent contacts.

FFLAG supports the full human and civil rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender individuals. FFLAG speaks out and acts to defend and enhance those human and civil rights.


I am Chair of the Board of Trustees of the anti-bullying charity:

Ditch The Label

This is an ambitious and energetic team of adults and teens working with schools, colleges, youths and parents from across the UK to help reduce the prominence and harmful effect of bullying within the UK’s education system.

Founded in 2012, it currently operates its own peer-to-peer online support community which has over 34,000 members worldwide. The charity works closely with schools and colleges to help them better understand and manage bullying.

Ditch the Label is also a core member of the Anti-Bullying Alliance.


I am also a trustee of:

Schools Out UK

This organisation, which has been working for LGB and T equality in education since 1974, provies a range of resources for teachers to incorporate LGBT issues into the curriculum. The classroom website includes LGBT-inclusive lessons uploaded and tested by teachers that cover all key stages and the majority of subjects taught in schools.

The Classroom aims to be an accessible space for teachers to locate a range of resources to make Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans people visible in education. To eradicate homophobia and transphobia, the lives and contributions of LGBT people need to be visible throughout education. This can be done by delivering a broad and balanced curriculum. The teachers who have contributed to these resources passionately believe in diversity being celebrated in all its forms. Therefore, they present a simple but effective methodology to enable you to be an inclusive practitioner and promoter of equality and diversity.

To access the classroom resources click on the hyperlink below:

The Classroom

Career History


I received my B.A. (Education & History) in 1991 from the College of Ripon & York St John before studying psychology at the University of Liverpool (MA, 1992). I joined the University of Sheffield in1993 as a researcher with the DfE Sheffield Anti-Bullying Project working with Professor Peter K. Smith (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Professor Helen Cowie (University of Surrey) who later became my PhD supervisors. I received by PhD from the University of Surrey (Roehampton Institute London) in 1999.



I began my teaching career as a lecturer in psychology at the University of Luton (now the University of Bedfordshire) where I taught modules on developmental, clinical and community psychology. In 1999 I was appointed a senior lecturer in the School of Sport Science and Psychology at York St John College (now York St John University), and subsequently was appointed Reader in Psychology (in 2002) and then Professor of Applied Psychology (in 2004). During my time at York St John College, I also established the Social Inclusion and Diversity Research Unit (SID) to support health, education and voluntary sector services in and around Yorkshire which I directed until 2005.

In August 2005 I took up the post of Professor and Head of Psychology at Queen Margaret University Edinburgh where I led a team that developed Scotland’s first doctoral programme in Health Psychology. From 2006-2008 I was a member of the Scottish Government’s Heart and Minds Forum which produced a report outlining the recommendations for the next decade of legislation on LGBT issues in Scotland. During the same period, I also served as a diversity lay advisor for Lothian and Borders Police.

In 2008 I joined the staff of Brunel University as Professor of Human Development within the School of Sport and Education. For three years (2009-2012) I served as Subject Leader for Sport Sciences, followed by a period as Deputy Head and then Head of the School of Sport and Education.

I currently serve on the advisory panels of two Big Lottery Funded Projects:


I also recently served on the steering group for the National Union of Students (NUS) "Out in Sport" Project:


Download the

Out in Sport Report.

Research Interests

Research Interests

For two decades I have devoted my career to understanding bullying in schools and, particularly, how bullying affects the mental health and well-being of adolescents. I am particularly interested in bias-based bullying and how its impacts upon those who experience it and witness it. In the 1990s the focus of my research was on the nature and long-term correlates of homophobic bullying. It was conducted at a time when Section 28 of the Local Government Act was in full force and also when few organisations (including LGBT organisations), other than a few key unions (NASUWT, NUT and UNISON), were willing to listen and acknowledge that this had been and continued to be an issue in British schools.

My more recent research, conducted with colleagues from various universities in the U.K. and U.S., has focused on text and-email bullying and the experiences of witnesses. Working collaboratively with local education authorities, our studies have shown that, across five years (2001-2006), text and e-mail bullying rose with the take-up of technology by young people transitioning to high school. We have also shown that students who witness bullying at school not only are affected by that experience but share a number of similarities with victims. Issues such as feelings of powerlessness, witnessing bias-based bullying and cognitive dissonance are associated with an increased likelihood of engaging in self-harming and destructive behaviours.

My research increasingly includes the integration of theories drawn from social and developmental psychology with aspects of cognitive psychology (particularly implicit and explicit reasoning) to better understand the train of thought that takes an individual form a position of safety to one of potential harm. I hope that this research can be applied to many contexts and fields of study.

I have prepared a short series of briefing notes based on some of the research I have conducted over the last few years.

1. Bystanders

2. Homophobic Bullying

3. Cyberbullying

4. Why Do Kids Bully Others?



nullRivers, I and Duncan, N. (2013). Bullying: Experiences and discourses of
and gender. London: Routledge. ISBN-13 9780415505031.

I suggest that it must be read by anyone connected to our educational system from grade school to college.  - Psychology Today.

A key contribution of this book is the extent to which it not only makes connections between various forms of bullying. In doing so, the book provides an important dialogical opening through which collective understandings of bullying can be incorporated into more mainstream discussions about how to address the problem. - Gender and Education.

Content. 1: Introduction Neil Duncan and Ian Rivers 2: The Immediate and Long-Term Effects of Bullying Helen Cowie 3: Cyberbullying and Cyberaggression: Sexualised and Gendered Experiences Ian Rivers 4: Bullying and Sexual Violence: Definition, Prevalence, Outcomes and Moderators Dorothy L. Espelage 5: Girls and Indirect Aggression Dawn Jennifer 6: Sexual Bullying in One Local Authority Siân Williams 7: Homophobic Bullying V. Paul Poteat, Ethan H. Mereish, Craig D. DiGiovanni and Jillian R. Scheer 8: Mapping the Boundaries of Homophobic Language in Bullying Mark McCormack 9: Disability, Sexuality and Bullying Neil Duncan 10: Masculinity and Homophobia in High School and College Sports: A Personal Journey from Coach to Researcher Eric Anderson 11: The Role of Gay-Straight Alliances in Addressing Bullying in Schools Margaret Schneider, Robb Travers, Alex St. John, Lauren Munro and Kate Klein 12: Planning and Delivering Interventions to Promote Gender and Sexuality Debbie Ollis 13: Discourses of Sexuality and Gender Considered Ian Rivers and Neil Duncan.


nullWard, R., Rivers, I. and Sutherland, M. (Eds.) (2012). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ageing: Biographical approaches for inclusive care and support. London: Jessica Kingsley Press. ISBN-13 9781849052573

This important book should be recommended reading for all health and social care practitioners working with older people, not just those with an existing interest in LGBT issues. The essays cover an impressive range of topics, including meeting the needs of LGBT people affected by dementia, understanding the caring relationships of LGBT people, the experiences of older lesbians in the UK, and the special challenges faced by transgender people as they reach old age. - Journal of Dementia Care



nullRivers, I. and Ward, R. (Eds.) (2012). Out of the ordinary; Representations of LGBT lives. Newcastle- Upon-Tyne: CambridgeScholars Publishing. ISBN‐13 9781443837439.

"Out of the Ordinary: Representations of LGBT Lives" is a book that seeks to case study the ways in which being other than heterosexual and other than biologically male or female can be or represented today. The essays contained within this book represent a body of creativity and thought that is rarely found together. It offers insights into the ways in which lives are not only experienced but portrayed by others as well as by those lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans people who live them.





 Homophobic Bullying: Research and Theoretical PerspectivesRivers, I. (2011). Homophobic bullying: Research and theoretical perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN-13  9780195160536.

The voices of pain are powerful.The author presents poignant, evocative narratives in which victims express the  maelstrom of confusion that peer abuse etched on their memories. He integrates a rich review of pivotal investigations on the topic of bullying with primary quantitative and qualitative data as he introduces three original studies that focus on the victimization of sexual minorities. His insightful discussion of classic and contemporary theories from a multidisciplinary perspective will sharpen the reader's understanding of the complex set of psychosocial factors involved in this cycle of abuse. This is a powerful, timely reminder that there are no innocent bystanders in the "bullying circle." Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty/professionals. – CHOICE

Those seeking a better understanding of the problems encountered by victims of bullying will find...Homophobic Bullying by Ian Rivers, a useful work of scholarship. Rivers compiled data from numerous studies on the form and nature of the problem and created a curriculum to help eliminate bullying in schools, starting in kindergarten with the simple message that there are different types of families, and progressing all the way through high school with lessons on the consequences that follow from homophobic taunting and exclusions. Homophobic Bullying is an academic work, written with the emotional detachment of its genre. The personal accounts from victims, while gripping, are brief. However the curriculum and supporting data make this a treasure trove for anyone creating change in a school or workplace. Homophobic Bullying should be in the principal’soffice. – Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide.

Bullying book coverRivers, I., Duncan, N., & Besag, V.E. (2007). Bullying: A handbook for educators and parents. Westport: Greenwood/Praeger. ISBN 0-313-33850-2

Drawing on research conducted in the US, the UK, Scandinavia, and Canada, Rivers offers insight into the immediate and long-term impact that bullying can have on the lives of students, their families, and teachers. He gives parents tips for working proactively with school administrators to resolve bullying issues, and provides teachers with materials that facilitate a better understanding of the social dynamics of the classroom, hallways, and playground. Administrators will find a quick guide to recent state and federal statutes, directives, and legislation related to bullying and antisocial behavior in grades K-12. –Library Media Connection.


Education, Identities and Social Inclusion (EISI)


Selected Publications


Journal Papers

(2013) Rivers, I. and Noret, N., Potential suicide ideation and its association with observing bullying at school, Journal of Adolescent Health 53 (Supplement 1) : S 32- S 36

(2013) Robinson, JP., Espelage, DL. and Rivers, I., Developmental trends in peer victimization and emotional distress in LGB and heterosexual youth, Pediatrics 131 (3) : 423- 430 Download publication

(2012) Rivers, I., Morbidity among bystanders of bullying behavior at school: Concepts, concerns, and clinical/research issues, International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health 24 (1) : 11- 16

(2012) Anderson, E., Adams, A. and Rivers, I., "I kiss them because i love them": The emergence of heterosexual men kissing in British institutes of education, Archives of Sexual Behavior 41 (2) : 421- 430

(2010) Rivers, I. and Gordon, K., 'Coming out', context and reason: First disclosure of sexual orientation and its consequences, Psychology and Sexuality 1 (1) : 21- 33

(2010) Rivers, I., McPherson, KE. and Hughes, JR., The role of social and professional support seeking in trauma recovery: Lesbian, gay and bisexual experiences of crime and fears for safety, Psychology and Sexuality 1 (2) : 145- 155

(2010) Rivers, I. and Noret, N., 'I h8 u': Findings from a five-year study of text and e-mail bullying, British Educational Research Journal 36 (4) : 643- 671

(2010) Poteat, VP. and Rivers, I., The use of homophobic language across bullying roles during adolescence, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 31 (2) : 166- 172

(2010) Rivers, I. and Noret, N., Participant roles in bullying behavior and their association with thoughts of ending one's life., Crisis 31 (3) : 143- 148 Download publication

(2009) Basile, KC., Espelage, DL., Rivers, I., McMahon, PM. and Simon, TR., The theoretical and empirical links between bullying behavior and male sexual violence perpetration, Aggression and Violent Behavior 14 (5) : 336- 347 Download publication

(2009) Rivers, I., Poteat, VP., Noret, N. and Ashurst, N., Observing bullying at school: The mental health implications of witness status, School Psychology Quarterly 24 (4) : 211- 223 Download publication

(2008) Richards, A., Rivers, I. and Akhurst, J., A positive psychology approach to tackling bullying in secondary schools: a comparative evaluation, Educational and Child Psychology 25 (2) : 72- 81

(2008) Rivers, I., Poteat, VP. and Noret, N., Victimization, social support, and psychsocial functioning among children of same-sex and opposite-sex couples, Developmental Psychology 44 (1) : 127- 134 Download publication

(2008) Rivers, I. and Noret, N., Well-being among same-sex and opposite-sex attracted youth at school, School Psychology Review 37 (2) : 174- 187 Download publication

(2006) Rivers, I. and Cowie, H., Bullying and homophobia in UK schools: a perspective on factors affecting resilience and recovery, Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education 3 (4) : 11- 43 Download publication

(2004) Rivers, I., Recollections of homophobia at school and their long-term implications for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, Crisis: Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention 25 (4) : 169- 175 Download publication

Book Chapters

(2011) Rivers, I., Chesney, T. and Coyne, IJ., Cyber-bullying. In: Monks, CP. and Coyne, I. eds. Bullying in different contexts. Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press (In Press) : 211- 230

(2010) Rivers, I., Homophobia and peer violence. In: Barter, C. and Berridge, D. eds. Children behaving badly? Peer violence between children and young people. London : John Wiley and Sons -

(2007) Rivers, I., Homophobic bullying. In: Bullying. Praeger Publishers Download publication


(2013) Rivers, I. and Duncan, N., Bullying: Experiences and discourses of sexuality and gender. Routledge

(2012) Ward, R., Rivers, I. and Sutherland, M., Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Ageing. Jessica Kingsley Publishers

(2011) Rivers, I., Homophobic Bullying. Oxford University Press, USA

(2007) Rivers, I., Duncan, N. and Besag, VE., Bullying. Praeger Publishers

Page last updated: Tuesday 19 August 2014