Outcomes from a School-Randomized Controlled Trial of Steps to Respect: A Bullying Prevention Program

By Brown, Eric C.; Low, Sabina et al. | School Psychology Review, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Outcomes from a School-Randomized Controlled Trial of Steps to Respect: A Bullying Prevention Program


Brown, Eric C., Low, Sabina, Smith, Brian H., Haggerty, Kevin P., School Psychology Review


Bullying is recognized as one of the most significant public health concerns facing children in the United States today and may be the most prevalent type of school violence (Porter, Batsche, Castillo, & Witte, 2006; Card & Hodges, 2008). It occurs along a continuum, with students assuming roles that include bully, victim, and bully-victim (Espelage & Horne, 2008). Bullying can result in negative psychological, emotional, and behavioral outcomes (Cook, Williams, Guerra, Kim, & Sadek, 2010). Victims, bullies, and bully-victims often report adverse psychological effects and poor school adjustment as a result of their involvement in bullying, which also might lead to subsequent victimization or perpetration (Nansel, Haynie, & Simons-Morton, 2003). For example, victims of bullying evidence more loneliness and depression, greater school avoidance, more suicidal ideation, and less self-esteem than their nonbullied peers (Hawker & Boulton, 2000; Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpela, Rantanen, & Laippala, 2001; Kochenderfer & Ladd, 1996; Olweus, 1992; Rigby, 2001). Whereas victims tend to report more internalizing behaviors, bullies are more likely than their peers to exhibit externalizing behaviors, conduct problems, and delinquency (Haynie et al., 2001; Nansel et al., 2001). Lastly, bullying, in its many forms, is a serious problem that can harm students' school performance in the form of school avoidance, lower levels of academic achievement, and more conflictual relations with teachers and students (Glew, Fan, Katon, Rivara, & Kernic, 2005; Nansel et al., 2003).

Taken together, the prevalence and social-psychological costs of bullying warrant public health attention and efforts to alleviate the suffering involved. Given the high prevalence and strong relationship of bullying to adverse mental health outcomes, evidence-based school prevention programs are of great importance to school psychologists and other mental health professionals working with school-based youth.

Effectiveness of Bullying Interventions

Previous evaluations of school-based bullying preventive interventions have found mixed results, as reflected in four relatively recent research reviews. For example, Smith, Schneider, Smith, and Ananiadou (2004) synthesized evaluation studies of whole-school bullying prevention programs on bullying victimization and perpetration, and found that across most studies outcomes were negligible or negative. Moreover, the studies did not replicate the strong positive results found in the original test of the Olweus (1993) program in Norway (Smith et al., 2004). Vreeman and Carroll's (2007) review of bullying prevention evaluations (multidisciplinary or "whole-school" interventions, social skills groups, mentoring, and social worker support studies) found the majority of studies did not show positive effects, but interventions focused on the whole school were more effective than interventions delivered through classroom curricula or social skills training alone.

Merrell, Gueldner, Ross, and Isava (2008) conducted a meta-analysis of 16 school bullying preventive interventions that used quasi-experimental or experimental designs and found positive effects for roughly one third of the outcomes measured across the selected studies. However, outcomes ranged from actual bullying victimization and perpetration to correlated risk and protective factors (e.g., depression, self-esteem). Notably, 1 of the 16 studies found positive effects on bullying perpetration and 6 studies found positive effects on bullying victimization (student self-report). Finally, a recent meta-analysis by Farrington and Ttofi (2009) concluded that "overall, school-based antibullying programs are effective in reducing bullying and victimization" (p. 6). Their meta-analysis found bullying decreased an average of 20% to 23% and victimization decreased an average of 17% to 20% in experimental versus control schools. …

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