A Summary of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: Reducing Bullying and Creating Safer Schools

The largest study of bullying prevention efforts in U.S. schools has revealed significant, sustained positive impacts from the Olweus bullying Prevention Program (OBPP).  The study, which was published earlier this year in the Journal of School Psychology, evaluated nearly 70,000 elementary, middle, and high school students in Pennsylvania over two years.  A companion analysis examined year-to-year changes in a subset of 95 schools over three years. The study of students in grades 3 through 11 documented reductions in students’ reports of being bullied and bullying others, and estimated that 2,000 students escaped bullying and 2,000 more stopped bullying others over the course of two years.  The findings also documented increases in students’ expressions of empathy for bullied peers, decreases in students’ willingness to join in bullying, and increases in students’ perceptions that teachers were actively addressing bullying. “It’s important to see how a bullying prevention program such as the

OBPP can affect not only the behavior of students but also students’ perceptions of the school climate that are related to bullying,” said Susan Limber, a lead author on the study and professor in Clemson University’s Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, which is the training and consultation hub for the Olweus program in North, Central and South America.”  Positive program results were found for both boys, and generally were stronger the longer the program was in place. Although the program’s effects took somewhat longer to emerge in older students, a positive impact was documented across elementary, middle, and high school groups. “It’s encouraging to see that despite some more ingrained behaviors in older students, we still see quite positive responses in later grades,” Limber said. “Ideally, bullying prevention should be implemented K-12.”  Dan Olweus, co-author of the study noted that “this study clearly shows bullying prevention efforts can positively affect behaviors and perceptions of students of all ages.” The research, which was funded with support from the Highmark Foundation.

The citation for the study:  Limber, S. P., Olweus, D., Wang, W., Masiello, M., & Breivik, K. (2018). Evaluation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: A large scale study of U.S. students in grades 3-11. Journal of School Psychology, 69(4). A copy of the full press release can be found here.

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