Bullying: What is it, and what to do about it?


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This powerpoint presentation was put together by Christopher Henrich, a Ph.D. for the Department of Psychology and the Center for Research on School Safety at Georgia State University, and presented on October 29 at our Georgia Children's Advocacy Network (GA-CAN!) Off-Session Policy Series. This month our panelists discussed the complex topic of bullying, what it is, and what we can do about it.

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Bullying: What is it, and what to do about it?

  1. 1. Bullying: What is it & What to do about it? Christopher Henrich, Ph.D. Department of Psychology & Center for Research on School Safety Georgia State University
  2. 2. Bullying Defined as repeated exposure to negative events (Olweus, 1994) – Imbalanced power relationship – Verbal, physical or relational – Social isolation or exclusion
  3. 3. Bullying Bullying involves: • Situations in which the aggressor is perceived to have more physical or psychological power over the victim & • Abuses this imbalanced relationship by repeatedly and systematically disturbing the less powerful individual (Nansel et al., 2001)
  4. 4. Bullying Behavior • Bullying behavior can include: – Repeated physical violence, such as hitting and kicking – Verbal abuse, such as name calling or taunting – Indirect, or relational aggression, involving spreading of rumors, social isolation, or exclusion (Beale & Scott, 2001; MeyerAdams & Connor, 2008; Smokowski & Kopasz, 2005) – Bullying behavior can also involve the use of technology, like computers, cell phones, and social networking sites
  5. 5. What is not Bullying Behavior… • Bullying behavior does not include: – Teasing • • • • Can be playful, but can also be hurtful More gentle than bullying, though it can be persistent Less systematic and does not always involve an imbalance in power Rarely intended to cause physical harm, frighten, or humiliate the victim – Fighting • Can involves physical aggression, verbal abuse, and arguing • Does not have to involve an imbalance of power • Not necessarily repeated over time in a systematic manner – Joking Around/ “Horse Play” • • • • Intended to be light and playful An attempt to be funny and make others laugh The target typically does not find the joking hurtful, though this is not always the case There may not be a target or “victim”
  6. 6. Prevalence • According to national estimates, between 17% and 30% of students report being bullied (Limber et al., 2013; Nansel et al., 2001; NCES, 2011; Wang et al., 2009) • Similar rates for boys and girls (Limber et al., 2013; Varjas et al., 2009) • Students self-report being bullies less frequently (≈10%) • Bullying occurs in all grades; probably peaks in 6th grade (NCES, 2011)
  7. 7. Cyberbullying • The use of electronic methods of communication, such as the internet or a cell phone, to repeatedly cause intentional harm or emotional distress (Kowalski & Limber, 2007) • Rates of cyberbullying are lower – Less than 10% of our middle school sample reported involvement in cyber-bullying (compared to 30% for other forms) – Other studies have found higher rates (20%, Wang et al., 2009; 16% Eaton et al., 2012)
  8. 8. Consequences of Bullying • Loss of instructional time (Bosacki, Marini, & Dane, 2006) • Poor health, mental health, and academic outcomes for bullies and victims (Beaty & Akexeyev, 2008) • Mental health outcomes particularly poor for bully/victims, and can last into young adulthood (Copeland, Wolke, Angold & Costello, 2013)
  9. 9. Outcomes for Bullies • Poor academic achievement – lower graduation rate • Mental health concerns: depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse • Antisocial personality disorder; Engagement in criminal behavior (Copeland et al., 2013; Sourander et al., 2007)
  10. 10. Outcomes for Bully-Victims • Depression, suicide ideation • Higher risk of referrals for psychiatric assessment than bullies and victims • Somatic complaints (Copeland et al., 2013; Nansel et al., 2001; Swearer, Song, Cary, Eagle, & Mickelson, 2001)
  11. 11. Outcomes for Victims • Reduced self-esteem and increased psychosocial stressors such as loneliness and peer rejection • Depression – Maybe particularly in frequent cyberbullying (Wang et al., 2011) • • • • Anxiety Helplessness Suicide ideation Poor school attendance + elevated drop-out rates = potential for significant negative impact on academic achievement
  12. 12. Evidence-based practice to address bullying • Limited experimental or quasi-experimental research on preventive interventions addressing bullying. This is true for: – universal interventions targeting all school children (Hahn, Fuqua-Whitley, et al., 2007; Wilson & Lipsey, 2007), – selective interventions for victims of bullying (Leff, 2007; Varjas, Meyers, Henrich et al., 2006), – individual interventions for bullies (Huddleston et al., 2011). • Prevention programs /research designed specifically for the local cultural setting, including input from stakeholders (e.g., Meyers, Dowdy, & Paterson, 2000; Meyers & Meyers, 2003; Meyers, Truscott, Meyers, Varjas, & Collins, 2007; Nastasi et al., 2004; Varjas, Meyers, Henrich et al., 2006).
  13. 13. Research on Intervention Effectiveness • Mixed results • Small effects Why? – No standardized criteria for design, implementation and evaluation of intervention programs (Ryan & Smith, 2009; Tofti & Farrington, 2011). – No sound theoretical basis for most intervention programs (Baldry & Farington, 2007; Espelage, 2009; Fox, Ttofi & Farrington, 2012; Stevens et al., 2001; Ttofi & Farrington, 2009; 2011).
  14. 14. Bystanders • 3 ways bystanders behave (Sanders & Phye, 2004) Positive Befriending the victim, intervening in favor of the victim, telling an adult Negative Neutral Cheering, laughing, Ignoring bullying, preventing adult not reporting intervention bullying to an adult, not intervening
  15. 15. The Role of Bystanders • KiVa – A anti-bullying program that successfully reduced bullying in Finland. Is being piloted in Kansas. • Components • • • • • Teacher training in disciplinary techniques Playground supervision Classroom rules, cooperative group work School-wide anti-bully policy Conferences and information for parents • Views bullying as a group phenomenon; how bystanders react to bullying situations determines whether the behavior is rewarding to the bully. • Program effects assumed to be due to (a) bystanders supporting victimized peers, (b) clear messages that bullying is not tolerated, (c) increased parent efficacy. (Karna et al., 2011)
  16. 16. Concluding Thoughts • Bullying is a common phenomenon in school and online. • Adverse effects of bullying can be potent and longterm • Bullying is distinct from other aggressive behaviors in that it is chronic and involves a power imbalance • The majority of schools employ bullying programs (HBSC, 2001), the effectiveness of which is questionable • Promising recent studies demonstrate the potential of intervening to change bystander behavior