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NREPP Web Site Systematic Review Library

School-Based Violence Prevention Programs To Reduce Bullying and Aggressive Behaviors

The National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP), supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, recently released a report on systematic reviews of bullying programs. The report describes research efforts assessing school-based violence prevention programs designed to reduce bullying and aggressive behaviors, including the availability and quality of school-based interventions, research limitations, and program successes and shortcomings. The full report can be found at http://nrepp.samhsa.gov/Bullying.aspx.

Eight systematic reviews of bullying programs were published between January 2000 and January 2012. These reviews each covered between 26 and 249 studies that were published between 1950 and 2007. Selected findings from the systematic reviews follow:

· The most common and most effective approaches were universal programs (Reviews 1, 7) as well as selective/indicated programs for children who participated in the intervention outside their regular classrooms (Review 7). Whole-school multidisciplinary interventions, overall, had positive effects on bullying (Review 6). Selective programs were more effective in reducing violent behavior, while the multiple-approach programs did not show any evidence of reducing violent behavior (Review 4).

· Improvements in the reduction of both reported or observed aggressive behavior and school responses to aggression can be achieved in both primary and secondary school age groups, and in both mixed-gender groups and boys-only groups (Review 2). However, effects were larger for better-implemented programs and those involving students at high risk for aggressive behavior (Review 7).

· Interventions designed to improve relationships or social skills were more effective than interventions designed to teach skills of nonresponse to provocative situations (Review 2).

· Specialist-based programs showed greater reductions in violent behavior compared with teacher-based programs (Review 4).

· Curriculum interventions did not consistently decrease bullying (Review 6).

· There was a lack of evidence that any modality (e.g., behavioral, cognitive, social skills) was significantly more effective at reducing aggressive and disruptive behavior than another (Review 7). Social and behavioral skills group training interventions did not consistently show improvements in participant outcomes, such as decreased aggression and decreased bullying (Review 6).

While the systematic reviews were able to draw some conclusions about the effectiveness of bullying programs, they also indicated that research designs and analyses were often insufficient to determine whether bullying programs were effective at achieving intended outcomes. Furthermore, there was significant variability in program approach, participant characteristics, implementation, and measured outcomes. Different school environments may respond differently to specific programs or interventions, making program selection and effective implementation challenging. One systematic review noted that schools might benefit most by considering ease of implementation when selecting a program and focusing on implementation fidelity (Review 7).

Information about evidenced-based bullying prevention programs can be found on the NREPP Web site (http://nrepp.samhsa.gov/Search.aspx). NREPP is a searchable online registry of more than 230 interventions supporting mental health promotion, substance abuse prevention, and mental health and substance abuse treatment. The site connects members of the public to intervention developers so they can learn how to implement these approaches in their communities.