Comparison Of Two Bullying Prevention Programs In School Context

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“Bullying can be defined as causing intentional distress, fear or harm to someone with difficulty defending him/herself”. It usually emerges during primary and/or elementary school. Teasing, rumour spreading, name calling, hitting and threatening can be example bullying behaviors. According to Olweus, bullies usually stand out with high aggression, physical strength, positive violence perception, need of domination and lack of empathy whereas, victims mostly being shy, anxious, diffident. Even though bullies and victims are observed to have stereotypes, it doesn’t necessarily mean youth with mentioned features are/will be bullies or victims.

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Genetic predispositions, environmental influences and family dynamics (history of neglect, abuse, violence) are major contributors to the determination of who is being the bully/victim. Being different, lacking emotional support, being submissive, low socioeconomic status, etc. might be risk factors for victimization, while having limited education, stronger social status, physical prowess and certain personality traits (hostility, etc. ) for bullying behaviors. In contrast to predictors; having emotional support/friends, good family dynamics, monitoring and behavior-outcome enforcements might be considered protective factors.

Variety of negative outcomes can be experienced due to victimization. Possible crime registry, psychiatric disorder development, substance abuse and failure to learn behavioral norms can be examples for such outcomes in bullies, whereas for victims outcomes might be increased suicidal thoughts, social exclusion, depression, and becoming a future bully. Even though it seems as if bullying only affects the victim and the bully him/herself, it impacts the entire community of context which -in addition to mentioned consequences above- highlights the importance of bullying behavior assessment.

Nowadays, different bullying prevention programs are started to be implemented due to increased awareness. The Olweus Bullying Programme (BPP) -an evidence-based program for elementary and middle schools- aiming to reduce bullying behavior and create safe learning environment ın schools will be the focus of this report.

Program starts with needs assessment done through voluntary and anonymous Olweus Bully-Victim Questionnaire (BVQ) which identifies type, prevalence, frequency and context of bullying occurrence. The assessment is followed by school specific implementations determination of informed community. Culture flexible interventions are outlined according to levels (school, classroom, individual) using bully incident densities acquired through grade, lunch and recess observations. This program with “anti-bullying rules, bullying awareness day, increased supervision, increased parental interest, class councils, working positive and negative consequences system and individual interventions” as core components was used in Black and Jackson’s study (2007) with six large, urban, American public elementary and middle schools. The program is implemented with partnerships that last four years and aim to be sustained even after the partnerships. An independent evaluator performed the observations and a bullying checklist was used as the observation instrument. Schools were observed at identified specific areas using BVQs (same place and time every year). In result, it is observed that the combined use of BPP components, social activity involvement and policy changes reduced bullying incident density. Greatest reduction was obtained through increased teacher/adult presence in lunch, decreased sugary snack access, anti-bullying rules, immediate interference to bullying behaviors, reduced number by gender or grade separation, increased prosocial activities in recess and regular equipment replacement ;which can be considered as common element examples of positive reinforcement, limit setting/punishment, providing materials and reviewing goals mentioned in Table 1 of Garland and colleagues’ study.

In comparison to BPP, a program aiming to break barriers between students named ‘Challenge Day’ consisted of positive reinforcement, reviewing goals and modeling as common elements. This interactive activity program used ‘if you really knew me’ exercise to increase empathy and understanding, and ‘cross the line’ exercise to show the individuals that they are not alone. Even though they had completely different ways of doing it, both Challenge Day and BPP aimed for the same outcome; safer and more comfortable school environment for youth. From Garland and colleagues’ perspective, number of common elements a program contains suggests the value of treatment strategy based on the idea that frequent co-occurrence of certain treatment strategies can’t be for nothing. According to this view BPP appears to be a better program assessing more common elements as well as more risk factors. We see that even though BPP has a more detailed intervention with constant follow ups and obtained statistics, Challenge Day having excessive visible motivation and reinforcement mechanism pushing the individuals to participate disturbs the balance when mutual common elements (positive reinforcement, reviewing goals) of both programs were assessed. It can be said that BPP still appears to assess more risk and protective factors (via increased social interaction, enforcements, monitoring, etc. ) despite disturbed balance due to mutual common element assessments-, thus being more successful according to the claim of Garland and colleagues (2008).

Etiology of bullying is not clear yet; but there are some risk and protective factors involved in its occurrence as well as maintenance. Different literature and prevention interventions focus on several of these factors which sometimes have overlaps, common elements as Garland and colleagues suggest (2008). In the case of comparing BPP and Challenge Day we saw that there are both mutual and individual common elements which helps the interventions to address risk and protective factors both on different amount and qualities. Even though the common elements theory suggests BPP to be a better intervention program, it might not be the case for certain other school contexts in my opinion.

Since the core aspects of both programs are significantly different from each other, it is hard to derive concrete conclusions on this regard. The ease of implementations, developmental sensitivity, work and cost load, encouragement for participation and method (e. g. direct interaction in Challenge Day, rules and monitoring in BPP); all significantly affect the success of the program which is why the right question for better program determination would be ‘To what extent the program reaches out to the problem while considering all aspects?’ instead of ‘How many common elements did the program address?’’.

18 May 2020

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