Bullying Prevention Doesn’t Seem to Work

There was a study released by the Journal of Criminology in 2013 which is titled, A Multilevel Examination of Peer Victimization and Bullying Preventions in Schools (see: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jcrim/2013/735397/)


“The findings reveal that students attending schools in which bullying prevention programs are implemented are more likely to have experienced peer victimization, compared to those attending schools without bullying prevention. Study limitations and implications for future research are discussed.”

First let’s discuss the good news.

  • Bullying does decline with age. It really does get better.
  • Having peer support reduces the likelihood of peer victimization

Now for the bad news: students attending schools with bullying prevention programs were more likely to have experienced peer victimization, compared to those attending schools without bullying prevention programs.

Basically – the effectiveness of bullying prevention has yet to be proven.  However, there are some programs that have a slight positive impact on behavior. The general problem identified is that school level programs are ineffective because “bullying is a relationship problem.” It’s an interaction between individuals.

Their advice – “researchers need to better identify the bully-victim dynamics in order to develop prevention strategies accordingly.”

I would argue that researchers already know what works. We have decades of behavioral research studies. We know how these dynamics play out and what works to disrupt them Every anti-bullying program actually teaches the components of this knowledge already.

What we are missing is a more integrated approach with adequate support for the individuals who need to learn these skills, in real time and for their specific situation. They can’t learn this as part of a larger program that teaches them to not bully and be nice to each other and to report when people aren’t. Studies (see the work of Jonathon Haidt) show that trainings don’t create behavioral change. The sort of change we want is learned over time through interpersonal experience. The challenge is to help kids learn the right lessons from these interpersonal experiences and to help them learn how to manage and control them better when things go wrong.

Parents and teachers!  If you don’t know how to teach these interpersonal skills or you don’t know what these skills are – learn them!!  Read My Book!
– it’s a good first start.

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