New research finds prevention programs which target teen girls at high risk for pregnancy can provide substantial benefit.
Experts from the University of Minnesota School of Nursing found high risk teenage girls were significantly less likely to participate in social bullying after participating in an 18-month preventive intervention program.
Experts say the research demonstrates that intervention programs can reduce social bullying among all girls, including those who did and did not have strong family ties.
Additionally, girls in the intervention program were significantly more likely to enroll in college or technical school, actions that reduce the risk for involvement in serious violence during early adulthood.
The research findings are published in the journal Prevention Science.
To evaluate the approach, an intervention program called “Prime Time” was offered alongside primary care clinical services.
The program provided 13 to 17-year-old girls at high risk for teen pregnancy with one-on-one mentoring and peer leadership opportunities in an effort to reduce bullying and other risky behaviors.
After 18 months of participation in the program, girls self-reported a significant decline in the amount they bullied others via relational aggression — a social form of bullying including gossip, rumors and ostracism that aims to damage the self-esteem or social status of a peer.
“These findings suggest that building supportive relationships with adults, peers and family members contributes to reductions in bullying and other risky behaviors among adolescent girls at risk for involvement in violence,” said study lead author Renee Sieving, Ph.D., R.N.
The study is noteworthy because a 2010 statewide survey of Minnesota youth found 42 percent of ninth grade girls and 28 percent of twelfth grade girls reported teasing or making fun of another student in a hurtful way within the past 30 days.
Nationally, a 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found approximately 22 percent of female high school students reported being bullied on school property within the past year.
Bullying and violence among girls are linked to a range of poor physical and mental health outcomes.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies issued a call for better clinical screening and counseling for interpersonal violence with both adolescent and adult women.
“There is a startling lack of evidence in the scientific community about effective approaches to preventing bullying and violence among girls,” said Sieving.
“This preventative intervention program, which employs a dual approach of addressing risks while building protective factors that buffer girls from involvement in bullying and violence, holds great promise in preventing violence among girls.”
Source: University of Minnesota