Bullying Interventions in Schools
Our group discussed social interventions in youth bullying behaviors. We examined a meta-analysis, an empirical study and the Violence Prevention Works website (http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/index.page) which is home of the international Olweus Bullying Prevention Progam. We concluded the class with an activity and discussion six major approaches and tried to apply them to the same bullying scenario.
1. Ttofi and Farrington (2011)
The article by Ttofi and Farrington (2011) is a meta-analysis that examines the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs in schools. The study included 89 studies that all used a control group and were either randomized experiments, intervention-control comparisons with before-and-after measures of bullying, or age-cohort designs. The meta-analysis showed that these school-based anti-bullying programs are effective because both both bullying and victimization decreased, on average, by about 20%. Some of the identified factors and aspects of programs that led to a decrease in bullying behaviors include the intensity (more intense is more effective), as well as parent meetings, disciplinary methods and improved supervision. Work with peers was correlated with an increase in victimization.
The increase in victimization associated with work with peers was point of interest for many students during the class discussion. We had to hypothesize why work with peers would lead to an increase in victimization since the article provided no further explanation. Students were surprised given that they could think of many other examples both in history and in their own lives where working with peers is a good way to solve a conflict. As we had wondered the same thing we tried to find further information on why this could have a negative effect on bullying behaviors and found a video from stopbullying.gov that listed several reasons such as working with peers implies responsibility from both parties, it may further victimize the traget who may not want to be identified and also that it can set up situations with aggressors and victims that may reinforce the bullying behaviors. The class was interested and surprised when thinking of bearing responsibility because it was consequence that had not been thought of before.
Ttofi and Farrington’s conclusion that anti-bullying programs were most effective for children over 11 years old was another point of discussion. We discussed whether the decline in bullying behaviors at this age was due to the program or whether the behaviors decreased at this age regardless, perhaps due to increased cognitive abilities and an awareness of behavior. If it was the latter, then the intervention need not be directed at this age. Additionally, if the interventions only target the older children then the younger children will continue to bully and be bullied, especially if this is when bullying is more prevalent these children need the interventions more.
In conclusion, we discussed the cost effectiveness o of the interventions included in the meta-analysis. The benefits of these studies as a result of a decrease in bullying behavior include less delinquency, anxiety and depression and a decrease in need for medical/psychological treatment. However, these studies are expensive and time consuming since they involve many different programs, use the whole community and last for an extended period of time. We discussed some of the more subtle interventions mentioned such as playground supervision and if there were more trigger points similar to the playground that would potentially be easier to implement and less costly.
2. Perkins et al. (2011)
The intervention discussed in this article was interesting because it included aspects that contrasted with the findings and conclusions of the meta-analysis. The Perkins et al. study is a theory based intervention that seeks to reduce bullying in middle school by changing misperceived peer norms. According to social norms theory, people have a tendency to overestimate the prevalence of negative behaviors, in this case the frequency of bullying perpetration, victimization and probullying attitudes. In order to determine attitudes and behaviors, a survey was given to each participating school and as predicted the two were significantly associated. The intervention used print media posters to display accurate norms form the survey results with messages such as, “Most Lake Middle School students (9 out of 10) DO NOT exclude someone from a group to make them feel bad.” The pre-/post-intervention comparison of results showed significant reductions in both perceptions of bullying and bullying behaviors and these results were also associated with the amount of exposure to the posters recalled.
In class we discussed a social norms intervention vs. the raising awareness approach, which is also commonly used to decrease disagreeable behaviors. We considered why one approach would be used over the other and if one was more effective or if they should just be applied to different situations.
We also talked about methods, specifically, the use of self-report. We wondered whether or not students would self-report on their own bullying. However, we could not think of a more effective way to get data on bullying. Even teacher reports could be skewed because there is bullying that goes unnoticed, especially when it is subtle or takes place out of sight. We discussed the possibility of interviewing the students but it was agreed that reporting on own bullying would be even less common in a one on one situation. Also this method would be much more time consuming. Another part of the methods that we discussed was the role of the teacher. Some found this intervention to be promising because it didn’t necessarily require the teachers to play an active role and therefore it would not matter whether or not the teachers put effort in or were passionate about the issue. Others felt that it is teachers or other adults that can best role model and facilitate student’s awareness. If this is the case then teacher training should be a part of every bullying intervention.
3. Violence Prevention Works Website
Additionally, we looked through the Olweus Prevention Program website, from Hazelden Publishing. The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is based on a core set of principles, established from research on development and behavioral problems, particularly, “aggressive and anti-social behavior toward peers in the school environment”. We found pages on prevention and impact to be very informative and helpful in understanding how we can look at the current research on bullying today. First, it is interesting that Hazelden Publishing offers a variety of tools to stress the importance of bullying prevention to both students and administrators; however, these materials are immensely high in cost. Programs such as, “the Peaceful School Bus Program,” is cheap, but the Hazelden “No Bullying Program Curriculum” for grades K-8 is $800.00. Bullying is a serious issue that presents itself in many forms, creating unsafe situations in schools. According to the site, a recent U.S. study shows that 17 percent of all students reported having been bullied “sometimes” or more often. This amounts to almost one in five students.
We also found that looking on the Impact of Bullying page provided insight into bullying prevention. The site presents the concept of the Bullying Circle, which includes the following groups of people: students being bullied, followers, supporters, disengaged onlookers, possible defenders and the defenders (http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public /bullying_effects.page). We considered the role of the defenders and bystanders through all of this. Perhaps if some of the disengaged onlookers or bystanders were encouraged to act as defenders or upstanders, less bullying would occur. In short, the website provides information for the most well-known bullying prevention strategy (OBPP), and it suggests a variety of positive strategies that have the potential to positively affect bullying in primary schools.