Bully Busters: A Psychoeducational Intervention for Reducing Bullying Behavior in Middle School Students

Article excerpt

The harsh reality of the bully/victim dyad is experienced by thousands of children every day (Espelage & Holt, 2001; Hoover, Oliver, & Hazier, 1992). Although it is unlikely that childhood bullying will be completely eliminated, there is reason to believe that with the cooperation of communities, agencies, schools, counselors, teachers, and students the problems can be significantly reduced. Schools should explore the implementation not only of programs that assist bullies and aid their victims but also of those that strengthen the positive relationships between teachers, bullies, victims, and all other students who also lose a sense of security and academic accomplishment as a result of being bystanders to bullying.

There have been numerous recommendations for using school-based programs for confronting the issue of bullying; however, there has been a paucity of empirical studies to validate the effectiveness of these programs. Olweus's (1978) school-based intervention program was the first bully reduction program to be evaluated by systematic research. His intervention program was constructed to have an impact on the school and classroom environments, students, teachers, and parents. The program significantly affected existing victimization, while concurrently reducing the number of new victims. In the 2 years after the intervention, the frequency of bully problems in the schools decreased by approximately 50% (Olweus, 1993). Although Olweus's program demonstrated that it is feasible to reduce bully/ victim problems in the school, his intervention was conducted in Norway with different cultural and educational conditions than in the United States. Olweus's work used a comprehensive approach that was broad in scope; there is still a need to examine whether less comprehensive programs may also yield results of lower aggression in the context of schools in the United States.

The bully prevention program, Bully Busters: A Teacher's Manual for Helping Bullies, Victims, and Bystanders (Newman, Home, & Bartolomucci, 2000), used in this study was developed in response to the need for a psychoeducational program that counselors could implement with teachers and that could be empirically tested. Prior studies have identified weaknesses in aspects of teacher training for violence reduction (Pianta, 1999; Whitney, Rivers, Smith, & Sharp, 1994) or have found difficulty in attributing the reduction in bullying to specific aspects of an intervention program (Olweus, 1994). The literature encompassing the arena of bully prevention and antibully programs has suggested the need for continuing teacher education pertaining to student bullying (Gotffredson & Gotffredson, 1985; Stephenson & Smith, 1989) and has provided a suggested outline of the components of a curriculum to increase teachers' awareness of bullying and their skills relating to handling it (Johnstone, Munn, & Edwards, 1991; Kikkawa, 1987; Olweus, 1978). However, little research has been done focusing solely on the effectiveness of a bully prevention teacher-training curriculum.


Aggression and the United States of America are long, intimate companions (Hazler, 1996; Horne, Glaser, & Sayger, 1994; Home & Orpinas, 2003; Patterson, 1986). America's schools represent a microcosm of the American culture; thus, it is not surprising that they closely parallel and reflect the levels, forms, and causes of aggression in our society at large (Arndt, 1994; Hazler, Hoover, & Oliver, 1991). Bullying, an international phenomenon (Hoover et al., 1992; Munthe & Roland, 1989), is one of the most widely practiced forms of aggressive behaviors in American schools (0liver, Hoover, & Hazler, 1994). As defined by Olweus (1994), bullying occurs when a student intentionally inflicts, or attempts to inflict, injury or discomfort on another student. Bullying has a direct negative impact on students, teachers, school property, the community, and the educational process (Espelage & Holt, 2001; Oliver et al. …