Research on Anti-Bullying Programs

 

Consequences of Bullying

Researchers suggest that the problem of bullying is in dire need of a solution, solely based on the effects it is having on society. Hun-Soo and Hyun-Sil (2007) state that along with the increase in youth aggression is an increase in negative effects, such as impacts on cognitive and moral development, academic adjustment, resiliency, and adaptive behavior for these adolescents. With the future in the hands of this generation, it is daunting to see the aggression and hostility that loom beneath the surface, as well as the array of problems that are associated with these traits.

Measuring Bullying

As a result of the increase of violence among adolescents, there has been an increase in prevention and intervention programs. Frey et al.’s study specifically focused on the concept of intervention for elementary age children and bullying on the playground and the ability to combat these behaviors. (Frey et al., 2005). Frey et al. (2005) conducted a controlled study of the intervention program “Steps to Respect.” The goals of this program were to reduce bullying, increase pro-social activity and increase social-emotional skills among the adolescents.

Ultimately, Frey et al. (2005) found that the program resulted in positive changes in observed bullying and an increase in pro-social activity. However, the students did not recognize any change in their behavior, as noted on their post-study self-survey.  Frey et al.’s study is a prime example of the importance of expanding research on adolescent bullying in the hope of finding solutions for these problems and branching out to new forms of collecting data.

Bullying is often difficult to understand and observe, yet even more difficult to measure. As Juvonen et al. (2003) notes, studies have relied solely on self-report surveys for many years to collect data on bullying. Adolescents are known for their lack of honest responses on self-report surveys. As teens, they often feel embarrassed by revealing weaknesses or shortcomings on a questionnaire. Adolescents often feel peer pressure to suppress emotions and to call little or no special attention to themselves, something that may be brought on by honest responses about adolescent aggression.

Due to these inconsistencies in adolescent self-report surveys, many researchers have included different measures to gather as much data as possible on the impact of adolescent bullying. These measures include self, peer and teacher reports, as well as researcher observations and psychological testing. With these advancements in the research, many new programs have presented themselves as possible solutions to combating this prevalent problem.

Classroom Anti-Bullying Program

As many of the studies focused on the characteristics of bullies and victims, Roland and Galloway’s (2002) study focused on environmental effects of bullying in adolescents. This study specifically studied the classroom environment and its environmental effects on bullying. Their hypothesis was threefold: “Teachers’ management of the class is related to the interactions in bullying; The social structure of the class is related to the interactions in bullying; Teachers’ management of the class is related to the social structure of the class” (Roland & Galloway, 2002).

The researchers operationally defined the teacher’s competence in teaching, monitoring, intervention and personal caring for students. Social structure was defined as the nomothetic aspects of behavior, ideographic aspect and the combination of the two. They used estimates of teacher’s management of the class, social structure of the class and bullying from peer to peer as their three independent variables. Bullying was defined as aggressive behavior toward peers (Roland & Galloway, 2002).

The results showed that classroom management had a direct impact on the amount of bullying. The social structure had an indirect impact on the amount of bullying. This study reviewed the environment in which a bully victimizes others. It included all aspects of the educational atmosphere that could lead to or promote bullying in classroom settings.

Conclusion

Frey et al. (2005) has shown that intervention backed by clear and definitive research can, indeed, make a difference. There is much hope for the combination of the research into the proposed third category of participant, the bully-victim, and the careful development of programs to affect the three groups.  Such a program would treat not bullies and victims as separate and distinct individuals, but rather would address the factors and characteristics of the traits of bullying and being a victim.

Work on these as behavior patterns, and not as individuals would not only allow more effective programs but it would also allow for the third possibility, the bully-victim, who needs intervention on both fronts. As previously suggested, many bullies are victims themselves, or at least share many victim characteristics. Therefore treating only one half of the problem will not lead to a complete solution.

Imagine a world where society treats not the person as a one-dimensional bully or victim, but a complex multi-faceted individual with a combination of factors that make up their behavior. Many studies have shown that there are almost as many causes for bullying as there are individuals, treating them all the same is doomed to failure.  But if they are treated based on the unique elements that make them a bully, a victim, or most important both a bully and a victim, there is real hope to find lasting solutions to the issue of bullying among adolescents.