Bullying—long tolerated as just a part of growing up—finally has been recognized as a substantial and preventable health problem. Bullying is associated with anxiety, depression, poor school performance, and future delinquent behavior among its targets, and reports regularly surface of youth who have committed suicide at least in part because of intolerable bullying. Bullying can also have harmful effects on children who bully, on bystanders, on school climates, and on society at large. Bullying can occur at all ages, from before elementary school to after high school. It can take the form of physical violence, verbal attacks, social isolation, spreading rumors, or cyberbullying.
Increased concern about bullying has led 49 states and the District of Columbia to enact anti-bullying legislation since 1999. In addition, research on the causes, consequences, and prevention of bullying has expanded greatly in recent decades. However, major gaps still exist in the understanding of bullying and of interventions that can prevent or mitigate the effects of bullying.
On April 9–10, 2014, the Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC)
1 The planning committee’s role was limited to planning the workshop, and the workshop summary has been prepared by the workshop rapporteurs as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. Statements, recommendations, and opinions expressed are those of individual presenters and participants, and are not necessarily endorsed or verified by the Institute of Medicine or the National Research Council, and they should not be construed as reflecting any group consensus.
held a 2-day workshop titled “Building Capacity to Reduce Bullying and Its Impact on Youth Across the Lifecourse.” The purpose of this workshop was to bring together representatives of key sectors involved in bullying prevention to identify the conceptual models and interventions that have proven effective in decreasing bullying, to examine models that could increase protective factors and mitigate the negative effects of bullying, and to explore the appropriate roles of different groups in preventing bullying.
At the workshop more than 20 presenters reviewed research on bullying prevention and intervention efforts as well as efforts in related areas of research and practice, implemented in a range of contexts and settings, including
- Laws and Public Policies
Following the research presentations, two panels of discussants—one consisting of youth and one of school personnel—provided additional perspectives to the workshop. Box 1-1 lists the workshop’s objectives. An additional 200 people registered for the webcast of the workshop and contributed questions to the discussion sessions.
The planning committee for the workshop consisted of Frederick P. Rivara (chair), Seattle Children’s Guild Endowed Chair in Pediatrics and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine; Catherine Bradshaw, professor and associate dean for research and faculty development at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education; Nina Fredland, associate professor at the Texas Woman’s University College of Nursing; Denise Gottfredson, professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Maryland; Nancy Guerra, professor of psychology, associate provost for international programs, and director of the Institute for Global Studies at the University of Delaware; Megan Moreno, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington; and Jonathan Todres, professor of law at the Georgia State University College of Law.
The workshop was funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The website for the workshop is http://www.iom.edu/activities/children/reducingbullying/2014-apr-01.aspx.
BOX 1-1 Workshop Objectivesa
The overall objective of the workshop was to highlight current research on bullying prevention. More specifically, workshop presentations and discussions addressed the following questions:
- What are the underlying knowledge base and conceptual models that guide the design, delivery, and evaluation of bullying prevention and intervention efforts?
- Are there specific interventions that are effective in decreasing bullying and the antecedents to bullying?
- What programs designed to address other negative adolescent behaviors (e.g., substance abuse or delinquency) are also effective at preventing or reducing bullying?
- Are there specific models and interventions that increase protective factors and mitigate the negative health impacts of bullying?
- What are the key sectors involved in bullying prevention and intervention? How does involvement or lack of involvement by key sectors influence opportunities and barriers to implementing a blueprint for bullying prevention and intervention? What are some appropriate roles for each of the key sectors in preventing bullying?
a The workshop statement of task is included in Appendix C.
COMMENTS FROM THE SPONSOR
“When it comes to bullying prevention, we know we can still do a lot better,” said Michael Lu, associate administrator for maternal and child health at HRSA, during his opening remarks at the workshop. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 20 percent of high school students in the United States experience bullying (Finkelhor et al., 2009), Lu said. The 2008 and 2009 School Crime Supplement, based on statistics from the National Center for Education and the Bureau of Justice, indicates that, nationwide, 28 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 experience bullying (Eaton et al., 2012). Many millions of children are bullied each year, Lu said.
In 2004 HRSA launched the first federal anti-bullying campaign, including the first federal website to prevent bullying. Today, these efforts have evolved into a collaborative interagency initiative hosted at http://www.stopbullying.gov, which is a one-stop shop for all federal bullying prevention resources. “We have made great strides in raising
public awareness about bullying and its negative impact on youth,” Lu said. But “there are still way too many children and youth in this country who are being bullied every day.”
A major obstacle to improvement is the amount that remains unknown, Lu observed. That knowledge gap was the motivation behind HRSA’s interest in sponsoring an IOM/NRC workshop to highlight current research on bullying prevention. The workshop was designed to consider what does and does not work and to derive lessons learned. “Five years from now, or 10 years from now, as a nation, we will know a lot better about how to prevent bullying and reduce its impact on millions of children, youth, and families across the lifecourse,” Lu said.
“This is an extraordinary gathering,” he concluded. “We have policy makers, researchers, educators, practitioners, and the public with us today in the room or online. We all come from different parts of the country. We come from different backgrounds, different walks of life.…[But] we have all gathered here today for one common purpose, united by one common cause—to reduce bullying and its impact on youth.”
ORGANIZATION OF THE WORKSHOP SUMMARY
The organization of the workshop summary follows the organization of the workshop panels and presentations. As noted earlier, this organization highlights the contexts in which bullying prevention interventions occur and the sectors that are engaged in these efforts. The contents of this summary reflect the research presented at the workshop and the discussions that followed but should not be perceived as a comprehensive review of bullying prevention research. Specific topics (e.g., cyberbullying) and populations (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] youth, racial/ethnic minority youth) are considered within the broader contexts framework. This was a deliberate decision on the part of the planning committee, explained Bradshaw. For example, in putting together the workshop agenda, the planning committee considered having a separate panel that focused on issues of diversity (e.g., ethnic or cultural diversity, individuals with disabilities, LGBT populations) and bullying prevention, she said. Given the heterogeneity of these groups and their experiences, the planning committee decided instead to include issues and research related to diversity “as a thread” throughout the workshop, said Bradshaw. This decision should not be perceived as omission or lack of emphasis on issues of diversity, and discussions of these topics can be found in this summary in presentations by Susan Limber, the Dan Olweus Distinguished Professor at the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life at Clemson University (see Chapter 2); Jaana Juvonen, professor in the Developmental Psychology Program at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Dorothy Espelage,
Edward William Gutgsell and Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (see Chapter 3); and Mark Hatzenbuehler, assistant professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health (see Chapter 9).
Similarly, while the workshop includes two reaction panels—one of school personnel and one of students—to offer their perspectives on the workshop presentations, these should not be viewed as the only stakeholder perspectives that would enhance an overall discussion of bullying prevention. The planning committee’s decision not to include additional stakeholder reaction panels—of parents and caregivers, for example—should not be viewed as an omission, but rather as a function of what was considered to be feasible within the format of a 2-day workshop. Discussions of additional stakeholder groups can be found in this summary in presentations by Melissa Holt, an assistant professor at the Boston University School of Education (see Chapter 5); Deborah Gorman-Smith, professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago (see Chapter 5); Asha Goldweber, a behavioral health researcher in SRI International’s Center for Education and Human Services (see Chapter 7); and Joseph Wright, professor and vice chair in the Department of Pediatrics and professor of emergency medicine and health policy at The George Washington University Schools of Medicine and Public Health (see Chapter 7).
The summary is organized into 3 parts and 12 chapters. Part I, which includes Chapters 2 and 3, describes a basis for understanding bullying. Part II, which includes Chapters 4 through 9, examines the contexts for prevention and intervention. Part III, which includes Chapters 10 through 12, describes possible future directions and overall themes that were discussed at the workshop. Each of the chapters is described briefly below.
Following this introduction, Chapter 2 provides an overview of bullying and victimization, including definitions, prevalence, and consequences. Chapter 3 reviews what is known about the targets of bullying and bullying behavior, including recent research on the neurobiological impact of bullying. Chapter 4 takes a closer look at school-based interventions, including characteristics of effective school interventions, the influence of school climate, and school policies to address bullying. Chapter 5 considers family-focused interventions and the role of parents and caregivers in bullying prevention. Chapter 6 focuses on technology-based interventions and includes a discussion of cyberbullying. Chapter 7 considers community-based interventions, including the role of health care professionals in bullying prevention. Chapter 8 reviews the research on peer-led and peer-focused interventions, which includes a discussion of both positive and negative peer influence. Chapter 9 provides an overview of laws and policies related to bullying and what is known about their effectiveness. Chapter 10 considers
how to translate research on bullying prevention to policy and practice. Chapter 11 includes highlights from two reaction panels—one composed of school personnel and one of students—who offered their perspectives on the workshop presentations. Finally, Chapter 12 includes highlights from the workshop sessions and areas for future research as identified by individual members of the workshop planning committee.