Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

113 School-Based Bullying Prevention: Results From Intervention Trials In the US and Finland

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Cabin John (Grand Hyatt Washington)
Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development
Symposium Organizer:
Anne Williford, University of Kansas
Bullying involves repeated acts of aggression toward a victim who is weaker in regard to physical size, social status, or other factors (Merrell et al., 2008; Olweus, 1991). A defining characteristic of bullying is the power differential that exists between the bully and the victim, which the bully effectively exploits (Olweus, 1993). Both perpetrators and victims of bullying are saddled with barriers to positive youth development (PYD). Childhood bullies often initiate a pattern of troubling behavior that leads to violence and time in juvenile and criminal justice systems. For victims, negative outcomes can include increased loneliness, emotional distress, depression, social anxiety, and poor school adjustment (Card et al.,2008). Recent high profile suicides and tragic school shootings highlight the most severe consequences of repeated victimization. Research has suggested that bullying and victimization are universal (Smith & Brain, 2000), trigger significant consequences for children (e.g., Card et al., 2008), and are relatively stable without intervention (Olweus, 1978; Salmivalli et al., 1998).

Concerned about the adverse effects of bullying and victimization, school districts in the United States, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand have taken a strong stance against aggression and bullying. A recent review of the efficacy of bullying prevention programs found very few controlled investigations of bullying prevention strategies (Farrington & Ttofi, 2009). Unfortunately, the lack of well-designed and rigorously-tested interventions aimed at preventing bullying and victimization (Baldry & Farrington, 2007) has limited the ability of teachers and practitioners to effectively prevent and/or reduce aggression and victimization in school settings.

Authors in this symposium present findings from group-randomized trials that were conducted to assess the effects of two theoretically-based school prevention programs: the KiVa Anti-Bullying Program in Finland and the Youth Matters Program in the US. KiVa (an acronym for Kiusaamista Vastaan, “against bullying”; Salmivalli et al., 2010) was recently developed and tested in Finland. The program, rooted in PYD principles, differs from previous interventions in both its scope and method to address bullying incidence and promote PYD. The program was tested using a group-randomized trial in which 78 elementary schools in Finland were randomly assigned to either an experimental or control condition. Multilevel Structural Equation Modeling (MSEM) was used to analyze self- and peer-report data from 7,741 students (3,685 in the control condition and 4,056 in the intervention condition). Main program effects on victimization and psychosocial outcomes are reported in Paper #1. Paper #2 extends these findings by examining the conditions under which the program achieves positive outcomes.

The Youth Matters (YM) program was tested under controlled conditions in 28 public elementary schools in the US. The study employs principles of random assignment, longitudinal data collection, and multilevel modeling to examine the effects of the intervention among students in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. Main effects of the trial and findings from latent class analysis that illustrate changes in patterns of bullying and victimization over the course of the three-year study are reported in the final paper. Implications from these trials for school-based bullying prevention efforts are noted.

* noted as presenting author
1. Effects of the KiVa Anti-Bullying Program On Victimization, Depression, Anxiety, and Perception of Peers Among Finnish Elementary School Children
Anne Williford, PhD, University of Kansas; Aaron Boulton, University of Kansas; Brian Noland, University of Kansas; Todd Little, PhD, University of Kansas; Antti Kärnä, University of Turku; Christina Salmivalli, PhD, University of Turku
2. Identifying Student and Classroom-Level Characteristics That Accelerate Positive Impacts of the KiVa Anti-Bullying Program
Anne Williford, University of Kansas; Aaron Boulton, University of Kansas; Kathryn DePaolis, University of Kansas; Todd Little, PhD, University of Kansas; Antti Kärna, University of Turku; Christina Salmivalli, PhD, University of Turku
3. Effects of the Youth Matters Program On Bullying and Peer Victimization Among Elementary and Middle School Students
Jeffrey M. Jenson, PhD, University of Denver; Daniel Brisson, PhD, University of Denver; Kimberly A. Bender, PhD, University of Denver; Anne Williford, University of Kansas; Shandra Forrest-Bank, MSW, University of Denver
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