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Preventing Bullying Among Adolescents

Recent declines in bullying have followed a strategic focus on prevention by partners across the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that play a role in promoting the positive development of youth. Still, there is considerable work to be done and challenges that need to be faced to eliminate bullying and its consequences.

Challenges in Preventing Bullying 

One challenge is that the vast majority of available bullying prevention programs have either never been evaluated or have shown only small, unsustainable effects in studies in the United States.1 Evaluated programs are largely universal in nature, meaning they are received by all youth in an area, regardless of risk factors.2 Most programs also have never been evaluated for their impacts on cyberbullying.2

Promising Approaches and Resources

Youth engage in bullying behaviors for a number of reasons, including as a reaction to trauma experienced at home and elsewhere.2 However, bullying may often be driven by the climate, or “norms,” within a school that promote bullying behavior as a way to gain peer acceptance or popularity.3

Emerging research suggests that the most effective strategies for bullying prevention and intervention address both angles by working to change the climates in which bullying occurs, while also addressing the needs of both those who bully and those who are bullied.2 Several promising efforts incorporate these approaches, including:

  • StopBullying.gov:  This website is the one-stop-shop for federal information on bullying. It includes resources for all stakeholders involved in bullying prevention, including parents, students, educators, and community members, as well as information on state bullying laws and other resources. It is co-led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Sources of Strength: This peer-leadership program trains adolescents so they can help change social norms that promote risky and unhealthy behaviors including bullying, substance use, and suicide. It can be adapted for a wide range of settings, including middle schools, high schools, universities, tribal communities, and juvenile justice centers. The program works to create a supportive social network to promote healthy relationships, known to prevent behaviors such as bullying and mitigate its effects. The program is currently implemented in over 300 locations and was highlighted by OAH’s Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® (TAG) call to action.
  • School Climate Improvement Resource Package: This suite of interactive resources walks school leaders step-by-step through the process of a school climate improvement initiative. Specifically, it helps schools use their school climate data to identify negative behaviors, such as bullying, and the action steps needed to prevent them. This evidence-informed tool was developed based on the experiences of 11 state-level grantees of the Safe and Supportive Learning program by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments.
  • The Resilience Project: This initiative empowers pediatricians and home health teams to serve a primary role in identifying and addressing the needs of children exposed to or victimized by violence, including bullying and cyberbullying. Developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the project stresses the importance of addressing the needs of all children, no matter their role in bullying.
  • Cyberbullying Research Center: This website seeks to educate educators, parents, and young people about cyberbullying and provides them with tools to prevent it. It features original research, compilations of other research, a regular blog featuring current issues in cyberbullying prevention and intervention, and other key resources including contact lists for social media companies.

Footnotes


1 Farrington, D. P., & Ttofi, M. M. (2009). School-based programs to reduce bullying and victimization. The Campbell Collaboration, 6, 1-149.
2 The National Academic of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Preventing bullying through science, policy, and practice. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/act/resources/webinars/bullying-bradshaw-flannery.pdf
Faris, R., & Felmlee, D. (2014). Casualties of social combat school networks of peer victimization and their consequences. American Sociological Review, 79(2), 228-257.

 

Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on July 7, 2017