Were you ever bullied? Do you know someone who was bullied?

In this post you will find basic information about bullying, including an idea for a new intervention to prevent bullying.

What is bullying?

  • Bullying has been defined as an imbalance of power and repeated exposure to negative actions, which can include violence, nasty words, mean gestures, or intentional exclusion (Olweus, 1995).
  • Three different forms of abuse: emotional, verbal, or physical.


Why is it a problem?

Bullying has serious consequences for both bullies and victims. Victims of bullying, usually anxious and insecure to begin with, are more depressed and have lower self-esteem both at the time of bullying and up to 20 years later. Furthermore, being a victim of bullying is positively associated with the risk of suicide. Bullies are often aggressive even towards adults and are characterized by impulsivity and need for power and dominance.

Why should you care?

Benefits of reducing bullying include: less delinquency, less anxiety and depression, less truancy, less medical or psychological treatment and more successful lives in general (Ttofi & Farrington, 2011).


What has worked to prevent and reduce bullying?

Many of the recent bullying interventions involve comprehensive programs that enlist multiple aspects of the community based such as all of adult’s present in a student’s life, the school as a whole, the classroom and working with individual’s involved in bullying (Olweus, 1995). Furthermore, a “dose-response” relationship exists between the number of components a program has and its success (Ttofi & Farrington, 2011). Some of the most effective components were (Ttofi & Farrington, 2011):

  • parent training/meetings
  • improved playground supervision
  • disciplinary methods
  • classroom management
  • teacher training
  • classroom rules
  • a whole school anti-bullying policy
  • school conferences
  • information for parents
  • cooperative group work

If these interventions work, why propose something new?

These interventions are not always cost-effective. Many schools with bullies may not have the resources to implement so many different components.  For this reason, I propose a new intervention, which uses small group work in elementary schools to prevent bullying. Group work in elementary school classrooms promotes cooperation (Hertz-Lazarowitz, 1980), and cooperation has been shown to directly correlate with bullying behavior (Rigby et al., 1997). Rigby et al. (1997) found that children who engaged in bullying exhibited relatively low levels of cooperativeness. In addition to collaboration correlating negatively with bullying behaviors, students who scored high on the Cooperativeness Scale were happier, had more friends and had greater self-esteem (Rigby et al., 1997).

Proposed Intervention

  • Hypothesis: the use of small group work in elementary school classrooms will promote cooperation and prevent bullying.


Few studies have considered the direct effects of small group work on bullying behaviors. This intervention seeks to be simpler than the existing research by simply changing one aspect, the structure of class lessons. Although effective, the existing interventions may not be practical in schools that do not have the resources or the motivation to involve the whole community.

In the intervention condition, 4th grade classrooms will promote cooperation through lessons designed for small groups and student leadership. Teacher’s will be trained to coordinate collaboration in groups. The group work will occur during a different subject each day to give students with different strengths a chance to use them. For example, on Mondays group work will occur during math and on Tuesdays it will occur during Social Studies. Simply by changing the structure of the classroom, and ensuring that every peer has somebody with whom to work, the peer dynamics can change. By promoting cooperation, the intervention can both decrease bullying and victimization.

For each classroom taking part in the intervention, another 4th grade classroom from the same school will be used as a point of reference and will not experience any changes in their class lesson structure. At the end of the school year, all students (those in the intervention and those in the comparison classrooms) will take the Peer Interactions in Primary School Questionnaire to determine the amount of bullying present in each class.

If the hypothesis is correct

The intervention will promote a culture of respect and understanding, as well as create healthy cooperative relationships between peers and empowerment through social skills development (Orpinas et al., 2003; Roberge, 2012).

AND less bullying will occur in the classrooms that conducted small group work!


Hertz-Lazarowitz, R., Sharan, S., & Steinberg, R. (1980). Classroom learning style and cooperative behavior of elementary school children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 72(1), 99-106.

Olweus, D. (1995). Bullying or peer abuse at school: Facts and interventions. Current Direction in Psychological Science, 4(6), 196-200.

Orpinas, P., Home, A.M., & Staniszewski, D. (2003). School bullying: Changing the problem by changing the school. School Psychology Review, 32(3), 431-444.

Reijntjes, A., Vermande, M., Goossens, F.A., Olthof, T., van de Schoot, R., Aleva, L., & van der Meulen, M. (2013). Developmental trajectories of bullying and social dominance in youth. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37(4), 224-234.

Rigby, K., Cox, I., & Black, G. (1997). Cooperativeness and bully/ victim problems among Australian Schoolchildren. The Journal of Social Psychology, 137(3), 357-368.

Roberge, G.D. (2012). From zero tolerance to early intervention: The evolution of school anti-bullying policy. JEP: Ejournal of Education Policy, 1-6.

Ttofi, M. M., & Farrington, D.P. (2011). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: A systematic and meta-analytic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology7, 27-56.

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