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Bullying Persists Despite School Efforts

Bullying Persists Despite School Efforts The most thorough analysis to date of studies on school bullying has found that K-12 schools’ attempts to curb bullying behavior have accomplished little.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers discovered that while schools are trying many different approaches to protect students, they require substantial commitment and school resources to be successful. And only the more comprehensive programs have been modestly effective.

“Band-Aid solutions, such as holding one assembly a year that discourages bullying, do not work,” said Jaana Juvonen, Ph.D., lead author of the review.

“We are trying to figure out the right balance between comprehensive programs that are costly and require a lot of staff training versus programs that require fewer school resources.”

The review, published in the journal Annual Review of Psychology, also debunks some common misconceptions about bullying.

For example, while it was previously assumed that verbal aggression and exclusion were bullying tactics used more commonly by girls than by boys, the analysis revealed that boys use the tactics as much as girls do.

“Perhaps less surprisingly,” Juvonen said, “gay and lesbian students and students who are overweight tend to get bullied significantly more than other students.”

“Starting in elementary school, kids with characteristics that make them stand out are much more likely to get bullied,” said Juvonen, who consults with several schools on anti-bullying programs.

“They are prime targets for bullies because they are more likely to be friendless, and when they have nobody to defend them, the bullying often escalates.”

“Children with social connections — even just one friend — are at less risk of suffering severe symptoms after being bullied,” Juvonen said.

That insight indicates that schools could do a better job of preventing bullying by making sure students are not isolated, for example, by not eating lunch alone.

Anti-bullying programs are evaluated based on whether they are reducing the number of bullying incidents on school grounds, but Juvonen said it might be more telling to consider how much schools are helping the students who are most severely and most frequently bullied.

“It is important to distinguish between victims of prolonged bullying and those getting called names once or twice,” Juvonen said.

“Students who experience continual bullying are at risk for much more severe symptoms.”

Such students are most likely to blame themselves, feel depressed, and feel that nothing can be done to stop the bullying.

Juvonen said school administrators have an especially difficult time addressing online bullying, or cyber bullying, and they tend to disagree about whether the issue should even be their responsibility.

“Students who have been cyber bullied at night often don’t come to school the next day, or they come late or are not focused,” she said.

“There is a very strong association between what happens in cyberspace and what happens on the school grounds. Many of the same students who are bullied in school are also cyberbullied.”

Some schools have been successful combatting bullying by training bystanders to respond to bullying. But Juvonen said the training needs to be a school-wide initiative that provides students with strategies against bullying and unites them in the cause.

Juvonen and co-author Sandra Graham analyzed more than 140 studies — a mix of long-term and “snapshot” research — that were conducted in the U.S., Australia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Now, Juvonen and Graham are conducting an eight-year study of 6,000 California students ages 12 to 19. Focusing on schools that vary in ethnic diversity, they are studying friendships and the development of prejudice in addition to bullying.

Previous studies on bullying by Juvonen and her colleagues have found that:

  • Bullies are considered the “cool” kids in school;
  • Nearly three in four teenagers say they were bullied online at least once during a 12-month period;
  • Nearly half of the sixth graders at two Los Angeles-area schools said they were bullied by classmates during a five-day period.

Students who get bullied often have headaches, colds, and other illnesses, as well as psychological problems.

Juvonen advises parents to talk with their children about bullying before it happens, to pay attention to changes in their children’s behavior and to take their concerns about bullying seriously.

Source: UCLA

Stop bullying sign photo by shutterstock.

Bullying Persists Despite School Efforts

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Bullying Persists Despite School Efforts. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 7 Apr 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.