The Antidote to Bullying?

, Spencer Irvine, 1 Comment

Anti-bullying efforts actually lead to more bullying, two university researchers found.

In their research article on the effect of anti-bullying rules which appeared in the Journal of Criminology, University of Texas professor Seokjin Jeong and Michigan State’s Byung Hyun Lee wrote that “The findings reveal that students attending schools in which bullying prevention programs are implemented are more likely to have experienced peer victimization, compared to those attending schools without bullying prevention.”

Their article, titled “A Multilevel Examination of Peer Victimization and Bullying Preventions in Schools”, defined bullying as emotional or physical harm, such as teasing, intimidation or name-calling. The effects of bullying have been well-documented, with an increased probability of suicide attempts and depression. The data they compiled consisted of 7,001 students from 195 different schools and they conducted a series of statistical regressions to come up with their unanticipated conclusion.

Although the statistics show it is a major concern, with about 1.5 million teens reporting they’ve been bullied at school, principals reporting “one or more violent incidents to the police” and 25% of public schools reporting some level of bullying, their research says anti-bullying does not help stop bullying. Instead, they realized that the schools do not account for as many types of bullying as they should have. Instead, they relied on studies that ignored a comprehensive approach to studying the effects of bullying.

The study found that “bullying prevention had a negative effect on peer victimization” and, “contrary to our hypothesis, students attending schools with bullying prevention programs were more likely to have experienced peer victimization, compared to those attending schools without bullying prevention programs.” What is to blame, asked the authors?

“It is possible that bullies have learned a variety of antibullying techniques but chose not to practice what they have learned from the program. Sometimes, bullies maintain their dominant social status among peers in school. As a result, the preventive strategies may become ineffective.”

They did find that “peer victimization”, or bullying, declined as children grew older and that boys were more likely to be physically bullied than girls (who were emotionally and verbally bullied). As well, the authors found that “race did not have an impact” on bullying and was “contrary to our prediction that minority adolescents are more likely to experience higher rates of bullying victimization, compared to Caucasian adolescents.” Over half of their subjects were not whites. which disproved their prediction.

Also, Jeong and Lee said that both parent-child relationships and friends’ support are helpful predictors of bullying. A stronger, more protective parent will most likely lead to less bullying and the same goes for a child’s friends. On the other hand, weak or negative parent-child relationship can become “conducive to bullying in schools.” And, the degree of “school pressure” regarding academic performance and inter-class relationships affect bullying. For example, higher pressure leads to negative emotions, which lead to bullying.

One surprising discovery was that increased security measures did not necessarily guarantee a bully-free school although physical safety measures such as cameras or bag checks are visible deterrents, not all safety measures are created equal. Having uniformed officers on campus helps deter bullying, but sign-in requirements in school do not help. Instead of beefing up physical security, the authors suggested that teachers need to be more aware of possible bullying and to intervene. Also, teacher awareness of anti-bullying policies in school helps deter bullying as well as their level of involvement in stopping bullying.

The authors could only conclude that “the effectiveness of bullying prevention has yet to be proven.”