Workplace bullying in early childhood education settings: prevalence and protective factors

Laura McFarland*, Rebecca Bull, Tamara Cumming, Sandie Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Workplace bullying in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector is a pervasive and significant issue in Australia and globally. Workplace bullying can negatively impact early childhood professionals’ mental health, contributing to staff turnover and attrition. Given the current, and predicted, future shortages of ECEC staff, it is critical that strategies be implemented to support staff well-being and maintain healthy and safe workplaces. The aims of this study were to examine the current prevalence of workplace bullying in the ECEC sector in Australia and to identify protective workplace factors associated with lower prevalence of workplace bullying. Using a convergent parallel mixed methods design, findings are drawn from qualitative and quantitative survey questions within a large study on ECEC educators’ well-being conducted in Australia. Participants were 591 early childhood professionals working in ECEC a variety of ECEC settings. Findings indicated that 24.6% of respondents reported experiencing workplace bullying and that most bullying was perpetrated by co-workers. Some workplace factors were related to lower rates of bullying, including positive teamwork, better supervisor relations, lower work-related stressors and having greater influence on workplace decisions. Implications of the findings are discussed in relation to informing policy and practices to address workplace bullying in the ECEC sector by identifying aspects of the workplace that serve as protective factors.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Early Childhood
Early online date31 Oct 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Oct 2022


  • workplace bullying
  • early childhood education and care
  • early childhood workforce
  • early childhood educators
  • horizontal violence
  • educator well-being


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