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Program Profile: Olweus Bullying Prevention Program

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 30, 2020

Program Summary

This is a schoolwide, multicomponent intervention to reduce and prevent aggression and bullying among students. The program is rated Promising. There was a statistically significant intervention effect on teachers’ ratings of students’ physical, verbal, and relational aggression and victimization. However, there was no statistically significant intervention effect on students’ self-reports of physical and relational aggression and victimization.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Population
The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) is a schoolwide, multicomponent intervention designed to provide a comprehensive approach to reducing bullying and aggression among students. The primary goals of OBPP are to reduce existing bullying problems, prevent new bullying problems, and improve peer/student relations. Bullying is defined as when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself (Olweus 1997). The program is designed for students in elementary, middle, and high schools and involves all staff, students, families, and the community in bullying prevention efforts. All students participate in most aspects of the program, while students who bully others and students who are bullied receive additional individualized interventions.

Program Theory
The OBPP is based on four key principles derived from research on aggression (Farrell et al. 2018), which state that adults within a school environment should
  1. Show warmth and positive interest in students.
  2. Set limits to unacceptable behavior.
  3. Use consistent, positive consequences to reinforce positive behavior and use consistent, non-hostile consequences when rules are broken.
  4. Act as positive role models of appropriate behavior.
These principles are incorporated into a number of schoolwide, classroom, individual, and community interventions.

Program Components
The OBPP is a coordinated collection of components that address the problem of bullying across four levels: school, classroom, individual, and community.

School-level components include the establishment of the Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee (BPCC), which is a team of administrators, teachers, non-teaching staff, and parents. The BPCC addresses issues related to fidelity and implementation of the program. School-level components also include training and ongoing consultation for members of the BPCC and all school staff, adoption of clear rules and policies about bullying, and the yearly administration of the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire (Limber et al. 2018).

There are three classroom-level components: 1) defining and enforcing rules against bullying; 2) holding class meetings focused on bullying prevention, peer relations, and prosocial behaviors; and 3) parental involvement through classroom- or grade-level meetings held periodically during the year. The OBPP also provides guidance about integrating bullying prevention themes across curriculum areas.

The program also includes various individual-level components for dealing with individual bullying incidents. The OBPP encourages staff to intervene when bullying is witnessed, suspected, or reported, and provides training so all staff are well prepared to intervene, follow up, and communicate with parents. On-the-spot and follow-up interventions provide staff with actions to take when they witness bullying firsthand and when bullying is reported or suspected but not observed. These interventions are designed to ensure the cessation of the bullying behavior, to provide support to students who are bullied, and to educate students about behavioral expectations. In addition, individual meetings are held with the student or students who bullied others and separately with the student or students who were bullied. One initial meeting is held after the bullying incident, with follow-up meetings as needed. The duration varies based on the specific incident and the development levels of those involved.

Community-level components include involving a community member on the BPCC, developing ways that community members can support the program, and collaborating to spread the bullying prevention strategies and messages to other community settings.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Teacher-Rated Physical Aggression
Farrell and colleagues (2018) found a positive intervention effect on teachers’ ratings of the frequency of students’ physical aggression. By the fourth year of implementing the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP), there was a statistically significant reduction in teacher-rated physical aggression of students from OBPP schools compared with student from the control schools.

Student-Rated Physical Aggression
There was no statistically significant intervention effect on students’ ratings of their physical aggression by the fourth year of implementing the program.

Teacher-Rated Verbal Aggression
There was a positive intervention effect on teachers’ ratings of the frequency of students’ verbal aggression. By the fourth year of implementing the program, there was a statistically significant reduction in teacher-rated verbal aggression of students from OBPP schools compared with student from the control schools.

Teacher-Rated Relational Aggression
There was a positive intervention effect on teachers’ ratings of the frequency of students’ relational aggression. By the fourth year of implementing the program, there was a statistically significant reduction in teacher-rated relational aggression of students from OBPP schools compared with student from the control schools.

Student-Rated Relational Aggression
There was no statistically significant intervention effect on students’ ratings of their relational aggression by the fourth year of implementing the program.

Teacher-Rated Physical Victimization
There was no statistically significant intervention effect on teachers’ ratings of the frequency of students’ physical victimization by the fourth year of implementing the program.

Teacher-Rated Verbal Victimization
There was a positive intervention effect on teachers’ ratings of the frequency of students’ verbal victimization. By the fourth year of implementing the program, there was a statistically significant reduction in teacher-rated verbal victimization of students from OBPP schools compared with student from the control schools.

Teacher-Rated Relational Victimization
There was a positive intervention effect on teachers’ ratings of the frequency of students’ relational victimization. By the fourth year of implementing the program, there was a statistically significant reduction in teacher-rated verbal victimization of students from OBPP schools compared with student from the control schools.

Student-Rated Victimization
There was no statistically significant intervention effect on students’ ratings of their victimization by the fourth year of implementing the program.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Farrell and colleagues (2018) evaluated the effects of the school-level components of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) using a multiple-baseline design in which schools were treated as the unit of analysis. The study was conducted in three urban public middle schools in the southeastern United States, which served a predominately African American student population from low-income families. Most of the students were eligible for the federal free lunch program. Enrollment at the start of the school year across the 5 years of the study ranged from 401 to 493 for School A, 519 to 575 for School B, and 419 to 610 for School C. Outcomes were assessed every 3 months (from a random sample of students from each grade) starting in February 2011 and continuing through the summer of 2015. There were 19 waves of student-level data provided and 14 waves of measures collected during the school years (i.e., teachers’ ratings of outcome measures). Based on randomization order and timing of beginning the OBPP intervention activities in each school, the intervention began in School A during the 2011–2012 school year and at School B during the 2012–2013 school year. Support was provided to School C to implement OBPP after all data were collected. Once the OBPP intervention began in a school, it was continued through the end of the study.

A planned-missingness design was used, in which each participating student was randomized to complete two of the four waves each year, to reduce participant fatigue and testing effects. During the first year, equal numbers of students were randomly sampled from each grade from the rosters of each school, which comprised an initial sample of 669 students. Subsequent samples of sixth graders and of new seventh and eighth graders were recruited to replace students who had left school. A total of 1,791 t students provided ratings, with 212 to 334 students participating in each wave.

At the start of the fall wave, the average age of participants was 11.3 years for sixth graders, 12.3 years for seventh graders, and 13.4 years for eighth graders. The sample was 53 percent female. Of this sample, 81 percent identified as black or African American, 15 percent identified as Hispanic or Latino, 9 percent did not endorse any racial category, 5 percent identified as white, and 1 percent were in the remaining categories.

Teacher-rated aggression and victimization were measured using the Problem Behavior Frequency Scale (PBFS)–Teacher Report Form (Farrell et al. 2018). The ratings were collected from 155 core academic teachers, who completed an average of 27 ratings. The majority of the teachers were women (69 percent), and 61 percent were non-Hispanic black, 28 percent were non-Hispanic white, and 5 percent were Hispanic or Latino. Teachers rated how frequently the students engaged in or experienced specific acts of physical aggression (e.g., “hit or slapped someone”), verbal aggression (e.g., “put someone down to their face”), and relational aggression (e.g., “left another student out on purpose when it was time to add an activity”) in the past 30 days, using a 4-point scale (from never to very often). Students’ self-reports of their frequency of aggression and victimization were measured using the adolescent report form of the PBFS (Farrell et al. 2016). Students rated how frequently they engaged in or experienced specific acts of aggression or victimization in the past 30 days, using a 6-point scale (from never to 20 or more times).

The study authors log-transformed scores on the measures of aggression and victimization and used linear transformations to provide scores with similar means and standard deviations as the original scores. Individual parameters were examined to compare changes in schools receiving the intervention with changes in schools not receiving the intervention, during each year of implementation and relative to baseline. The calculated effect size (Cohen’s d) was estimated by dividing the unstandardized parameters by the standard deviation of the outcome measure. No subgroup analyses were conducted.
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Cost

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Implementation costs depend on the number of teachers, staff, and students in a school building. A cost–benefit analysis of Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) implementation conducted by the Highmark Foundation (N.d.) found the total cost of OBPP implementation over a 3-year period averaged $7.70 per student per year. The highest program costs are incurred in the first year of the initiative because of start-up expenses, including baseline data collection, material costs, and training. Costs for continued implementation are significantly lower. Additional information is available at https://olweus.sites.clemson.edu/olweusinfo.php
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Implementation Information

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Information about training and certification for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) can be found at the Clemson University website: https://olweus.sites.clemson.edu/. Hazelden Publishing is the exclusive publisher of the OBPP: http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying.page.

OBPP was first designed, implemented, and evaluated in schools throughout Norway. Some adaptations have been made to the original program model when implemented in schools in the United States, including the creation of English language print and video resources for school administrators and teachers, and the use of readiness checklists (Limber et al. 2018).

Implementation of the program begins with a training conducted by a certified OBPP Trainer-Consultant for the Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee at the school. The training is followed by ongoing consultation to provide assistance in the implementation of program elements. Most of the program components are expected to be implemented and in use within a period of 12 to 18 months. The OBPP Schoolwide Guide and OBPP Teacher Guide provide step-by-step instructions, background information, and resources to support program implementation.

In addition, for the study conducted by Farrell and colleagues (2018) in urban public middle schools in the southeastern United States, a few additions were made to the original program model. For example, the Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee held student and parent kick-off events to introduce and review the school rules against bullying. “Back to School” nights were incorporated into the community-level components of the program, in addition to such events as career day and an after-school youth leadership program. Finally, OBPP was supplemented with family interventions such as a self-directed version of Staying Connected to Your Teen and a Spanish version of Parenting Wisely.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Farrell, Albert D., Terri N. Sullivan, Kevin S. Sutherland, Rosalie Corona, and Saba Masho. 2018. “Evaluation of the Olweus Bully Prevention Program in an Urban School System in the USA.” Prevention Science 19:833–47.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Bauer, Nerissa, Paula Lozano, and Frederick P. Rivara. 2007. “The Effectiveness of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in Public Middle Schools: A Controlled Trial.” Journal of Adolescent Health 40:266–74. (This study was reviewed but did not meet CrimeSolutions.gov criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

Black, Sally A., and Ericka Jackson. 2007. “Using Bullying Incident Density to Evaluate the Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme.” School Psychology International 28:623–38.

Farrell, Albert D., Terri N. Sullivan, Elizabeth A. Goncy, and A.T.H. Le. 2016. “Assessment of Adolescents’ Victimization, Aggression, and Problem Behaviors: Evaluation of the Problem Behavior Frequency Scale.” Psychological Assessment 28:702–14.

Farrell, Albert D., Elizabeth A. Goncy, Terri N. Sullivan, and Erin L. Thompson. 2018. “Evaluation of the Problem Behavior Frequency Scale–Teacher Report Form for Assessing Behavior in a Sample of Urban Adolescent.” Psychological Assessment 30:1277–91.

Highmark Foundation. N.d. The Cost Benefit of Bullying Prevention: A First-Time Analysis of Savings. Pittsburgh, Pa.: Highmark Foundation.

Hong, Jun S. 2008. “Feasibility of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in Low-Income Schools.” Journal of School Violence 8(1):81–97.

Limber, Susan P., Maury Nation, Allison J. Tracy, Gary B. Melton, and Vicki Flerz. 2004. “Implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme in the Southeastern United States.” In P. Smith, D. Pepler, and K. Rigby (eds.). Bullying in Schools: How Successful Can Interventions Be? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 55–80. (This study was reviewed but did not meet CrimeSolutions.gov criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

Limber, Susan P., Dan Olweus, Weijun Wang, and Matthew Masiello. 2018. “Evaluation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: A Large Scale Study of U.S. Students in Grades 3–11.” Journal of School Psychology 69:56–72.

Melton, Gary G., Susan P. Limber, Vicki Flerz, Maury Nation, Wayne Osgood, Jeff Chambers, Scott Henggeler, Phillippe Cunningham, and Dan Olweus. 1998. Violence Among Rural Youth. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Olweus, Dan. 1997. “Bully/Victim Problems in School: Facts and Intervention.” European Journal of Psychology of Education 12(4):495–510.

Olweus, Dan. 2005. “A Useful Evaluation Design, and Effects of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.” Psychology, Crime & Law 11(4):398–402.

Olweus, Dan, and Susan P. Limber. 2010. “Bullying in School: Evaluation and Dissemination of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 80(1):124–34.
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

School-Based Bullying Prevention Programs
The practice includes programs that aim to reduce bullying and victimization (being bullied) in school settings. Some interventions aim to increase positive involvement in the bullying situation from bystanders or witnesses. The practice is rated Effective for reducing bullying, bullying victimization, and for increasing the likelihood of a bystander to intervene. The practice is rated No Effects for increasing bystander empathy for victims of bullying.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Bullying
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Victimization - Being bullied
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Victimization - Bystander intervention
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Empathy for the victim
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Program Snapshot

Age: 11 - 14

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White, Other

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Classroom Curricula, Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, School/Classroom Environment, Bullying Prevention/Intervention, Violence Prevention

Current Program Status: Active

Researcher:
Jan Urbanski
Director of Safe and Humane Schools
Institute on Family & Neighborhood Life, Clemson University
321 Brackett Hall
Clemson SC 29634
Phone: 864.656.1836
Website
Email