Preventing Bullying and Victimization in Children and Youth: Findings from Randomized School-Based Intervention Trials
The individual and social costs of bullying and victimization are well known. Victims of bullying report significantly higher levels of internalizing problems, such as anxiety and depression, and lower levels of self-esteem and social competence than other youth. Although bullies stand to benefit from their behavior by gaining power and status among their peers, investigators have also found that bullies are more likely to participate in delinquent behavior and to have less empathy and lower school commitment than their peers. Evidence also suggests that bullying and victimization differ by gender. For example, boys consistently report higher levels of aggression and victimization involving acts of physical bullying like pushing, hitting, or kicking than girls. In contrast, girls tend to participate in relational forms of bullying characterized by spreading rumors or excluding peers from social activities at higher rates than boys.
A variety of individual, classroom, and school-wide bullying prevention programs have been developed and tested in elementary and middle schools during the past 20 years. Programs range from social and emotional learning programs that aim to equip students with effective peer negotiation, conflict management, and empathy skills to school-wide interventions that involve students, teachers, and other school staff in activities that seek to improve the culture of bullying and victimization. Individual randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews of bullying prevention programs have yielded somewhat mixed results (Farrington & Ttofi, 2009). For example, social and emotional learning programs have produced positive effects in reducing victimization, but have been less effective in preventing bullying behaviors per se. School-wide prevention programs such as the widely-implemented Bully Prevention Program developed by Olweus and colleagues have produced positive effects in several European trials, but have been less effective in the United States.
This symposium seeks to shed light on questions related to the efficacy of bully prevention programs. Authors present results from two longitudinal group-randomized trials of school-based bully prevention programs conducted with elementary school students. A third paper presents new findings from a systematic review of 24 bully prevention programs in the United States and other countries. Implications of findings for school-based preventive interventions aimed at bullying and victimization are noted.