Understanding young people’s experiences of racially motivated appearance-focused (RMAF) bullying

Shioma-Lei Craythorne - black and white image

Dr Shioma-Lei Craythorne, Lead Researcher and Research Fellow, Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment, Aston University

In 2019, the NSPCC reported that incidents of racial abuse and bullying of children had risen by a fifth within four years. They described children using cosmetics to whiten their skin and change their physical appearance in an attempt to protect themselves from being racially bullied.

Dr Craythorne’s RMAF Bullying project has three main objectives:

  • To explore what the current literature tells us about the implications of racial bullying and bullying that focuses specifically on appearance.

  • To understand what young people believe to be important ethical considerations when conducting research on highly sensitive topics such as RMAF bullying.

  • To understand how young people aged 11-16 make sense of racially motivated appearance-focused (RMAF) bullying, and the impact it has on their mental health and wellbeing.

In this project, an exploratory approach to investigating the young people’s experiences will be undertaken, combining Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) and creative methods to enable a focus on understanding individual experience. This will support the involvement of young people at all stages of the research.

Key Messages


Following the project, Dr Shioma-Lei Craythorne shared the key findings of the research and possible future steps.

Key messages based on preliminary research findings from the scoping review suggest that, in the current literature, children’s voices regarding their personal experiences of racial bullying are significantly lacking.

There is a limited amount of research that presents parent’s voices and teacher’s voices regarding their experience of children in their care being racially bullied. However, none of this research specifically focused on the child’s ethnic features or how the bullying affected the child directly, in their own words. Therefore, it is essential to carry out more research in this area in order to further our understanding of this phenomenon.

To follow on with further developments, check up with @shioma_lei on Twitter.