Key role for schools in integrating immigrants

A new article in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence has examined the relationship between the percentage of immigrants in schools and peer violence. It found that for both immigrants and non-immigrants, high classmate support was consistently related to a lower risk of bullying victimisation and less physical fighting, regardless of immigrant school composition.

The authors used data from the 2009–2010 World Health Organization Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey (WHO-HBSC) for a total of 51,636 adolescents from 11 countries: the UK, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, and the US.

In terms of being bullied, the analysis showed that immigrant teenagers were at a higher risk of being victimised. A higher percentage of immigrants in schools was not related to being bullied, but higher levels of school support (in particular on the individual level) were related to a lower risk of being bullied (although this was also true for non-immigrants).

The analysis also found a significant, positive relationship between immigrant school composition and bullying perpetration and physical fighting, with stronger associations for immigrants compared to non-immigrant adolescents. However, for both immigrants and non-immigrants, high classmate support was consistently related to less physical fighting regardless of immigrant school composition.
The authors conclude that schools have an important role to play in integrating immigrants into societies. They say that schools need to be aware of the relationship between immigrant school composition and peer violence, and the importance of classmate support in countering negative dynamics. They recommend using intervention programmes that relate to the existence of ethnic groups, and stress positive intergroup relations and classmate support.

Source: The Relationship Between Immigrant School Composition, Classmate Support and Involvement in Physical Fighting and Bullying among Adolescent Immigrants and Non-immigrants in 11 Countries (2016), Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Getting to the root of bullying

This report from Child Trends summarises factors in early childhood that appear related to later bullying, and what can be done to buffer those factors. The information is based on a review of existing research on the topic. The paper also looks at specific programmes that are designed to address and prevent risk factors for bullying in young children, and summarises the programmes’ evidence of effectiveness.

Key findings were as follows:
  • Research suggests that a child’s relationship with his or her caregivers is absolutely critical to consider when exploring the roots of later involvement in bullying (in some cases, as either victim or bully).
  • Research on the role of non-parental caregivers and settings on later bullying is limited, underscoring a substantial gap in the literature. Nevertheless, the role of peers, neighbourhood characteristics, socio-economic factors, media exposure, and prejudice have all been identified as correlated to bullying.
  • The research literature shows that effective, evidence-based early childhood interventions primarily used a curriculum-based approach with specific strands of content to support the classroom teacher, the child, and the parents/caregivers in addressing aggressive behaviours. Key themes among these approaches included using a mix of educational materials with a tailored interactive approach, and using goal setting and action planning.
Source: Bullies in the Block Area: The Early Childhood Origins of “Mean” Behavior (2015), Child Trends.

Childhood bullying leads to ill health as an adult

The effects of bullying last well into adulthood, according to a study in Psychological Medicine.

The authors used data from the National Child Development Study, which followed more than 17,000 people born in 1958. Parents were asked whether their children had been bullied when they were aged 7 and 11. When these children then reached 45, they were tested for various health markers focusing on obesity and inflammatory processes, such as C-reactive protein (CRP). Raised levels of CRP have been linked to a higher risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.

At age 45, study participants who had experienced bullying victimisation had higher levels of inflammation than their non-bullied peers, and women who had been bullied were more likely to be obese. The findings were independent of the effects of correlated childhood risks (such as parental social class and childhood BMI) and key adult risk factors (such as smoking and diet).

Bullying has previously been shown to have an impact on adult mental health. The authors argue that these findings showing an impact on physical health add impetus to the importance of early intervention to stop bullying activity.

Source: Bullying Victimization in Childhood Predicts Inflammation and Obesity at Mid-life: A Five-decade Birth Cohort Study (2015), Psychological Medicine.

40 years of bullying research

A special school bullying and victimization issue of American Psychologist includes six papers.

The introduction article “Four Decades of Research on School Bullying” takes the reader through section summaries on “Linking Peer Victimization to Adjustment in Childhood and Adolescence,” “Prospective Studies Following Children Forward Into Adulthood,” and “Mediators and Moderators: What Contributes to Defining Pathways?” The article finishes with a look at conclusions, implications, and future directions.

“Long-Term Adult Outcomes of Peer Victimization in Childhood and Adolescence: Pathways to Adjustment and Maladjustment” looks at negative outcomes caused by bullying and analyses findings from studies that investigate why not all victims of bullying have similar outcomes in adult life.

“Translating Research to Practice in Bullying Prevention” examines findings from various studies and meta-analyses of bullying prevention programmes and makes recommendations for further research. The author (Catherine P. Bradshaw of the Curry School of Education, University of Virginia) has written previously for this newsletter’s sister publication Better: Evidence-based Education.

Source: Bullying: What We Know Based On 40 Years of Research (2015), American Psychologist, 70(4).

A whole-school approach to tackling bullying

An article in the July issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research describes the impact of an evidence-based framework designed to help schools tackle bullying. Based on research on both bullying and educational effectiveness, the framework is a whole-school approach that considers three elements:

  1. The school policy for teaching;
  2. The school learning environment, including behaviour outside the classroom, interaction between teachers, and collaboration with stakeholders including parents and psychologists; and
  3. School evaluation.

A total of 52 schools in Cyprus and Greece were randomly allocated to experimental and control groups. Experimental schools were offered training and support to develop strategies and action plans for confronting and reducing bullying based on the data on what was occurring in their schools. The intervention was implemented for approximately eight months.

The authors found that the approach had a direct effect on improving school factors and both direct and indirect effects on reducing bullying. In both countries, schools that used the approach reduced the extent to which their pupils were being victimised and reduced the extent of bullying compared to the control schools. However, the article acknowledges that the effect of the intervention may partly be attributed to differences in the effort put in by schools in the two groups with regard to implementing their strategies to reduce bullying.

Source: Improving the School Learning Environment to Reduce Bullying: An Experimental Study (2014), Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research , 58(4).

Poor children face more bullying

A new systematic review published by researchers from the University of Warwick, examines whether socioeconomic status (SES) can be used to identify which schools or children are at greatest risk of bullying. They found that low SES was associated with increased odds of being a victim or a bully-victim (children who are victimised by their peers, but who also bully other children).

A total of 28 studies met the authors’ inclusion criteria, and these all reported an association between roles in school bullying (victim, bully, and bully-victim) and measures of SES. The review found that while victims and bully-victims were more likely to come from low SES backgrounds, SES was a poor predictor of bullying others. Bullying did not appear to be socially patterned, but occurred across all SES strata at fairly similar rates.

In practical terms, the authors note that their data provides little new information in terms of preventing bullying, but suggest that bullying prevention interventions should target all children, not just those from poorer households.

Source: Socioeconomic Status and Bullying: A Meta-Analysis (2014), American Journal of Public Health, 104(6).