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Synthesis Essay on Bullying

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The developmental stages of adolescence, which include physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development, are divided into early, middle, and late adolescence. The goal of adolescent development is to move toward a more mature sense of self and purpose. Adolescent learns how to establish and maintain healthy relationships, share intimacy comfortably to understand abstract ideas and develop their own moral viewpoints. Adolescence is a very sensitive stage; they experience puberty changes that are many physical changes in their body; adolescents start to grow body hair and gain height and weight rapidly. Breast and hip development and menstruation begin in girls, and boys experience a deepening of voice. These physical changes tend to make adolescent feel more emotional, and self-conscious about their body. Adolescent self-esteem plays a big role in this stage of life. Adolescents struggle with wanting to be accepted and with trying to fit in with their peers.

Imagine an adolescent suffering from bullying. Bullying is described as an aggressive behavior, in which an individual or a group of individuals repeatedly attacks, humiliates, and/or excludes a powerless person who cannot defend him/herself. Bullying between students at school can seriously affect their social, physical, and psychological well-being as well as their academic achievement. Students who are bullied, compared to those who are not, tend to experience poorer health, more somatic complaints and greater risk of injury (Gini & Pozzoli, 2009; Strabstein & Piazza, 2008; Williams, Chambers, Logan, & Robinson, 1996; Wolke, Woods, Bloomfield, & Karstadt, 2001); poorer self-esteem (Jankauskiene, Kardelis, Sukys, & Kardeliene, 2008; Salmivalli, Kaukiainen, Kaistaniemi, & Lagerspetz, 1999); more interpersonal difficulties (Kumpulainen et al., 1998); higher levels of loneliness (Forero, McLellan, Rissel, & Bauman, 1999; Kochenderfer & Ladd, 1996b; Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, & Ruan, 2001); depression (Fekkes, Pijpers, Fredriks, Vogels, & Verloove-Vanhorick, 2006; Juvonen, Graham, & Schuster, 2003; Roland, 2002); increased anxiety (Juvonen et al., 2003; Kumpulainen, 2008); and score higher on measures of suicidal ideation (Kaltiala-Heino et al., 1999; Roland, 2002; Van der Wal, de Wit, & Hirasing, 2003). As such, they are also more likely to both dislike (Forero et al., 1999) and want to avoid school (Kochenderfer & Ladd, 1996a; Rigby, 1997a), as well as suffer from impaired concentration in class,(Boulton, Trueman, & Murray, 2008). Subsequently, their level of school attendance and academic competence tends to be lower (Beran & Lupart, 2009; Fonagy, Twemlow, Vernberg, Sacco, & Little, 2005; Glew, Fan, Katon, Rivara, & Kernic, 2005; Smith, Talamelli, Cowie, Naylor, & Chauhan, 2004c; Strabstein & Piazza, 2008). Similarly, students who bully others regularly are at risk of a wide range of health, safety, and educational problems, including injury requiring hospitalization, weapon carrying, setting fires, and runaway episodes (Strabstein & Piazza, 2008). Students who bully others have a higher incidence of mental health problems (Craig, 1998; Kaltiala-Heino et al., 1999; Kumpulainen, 2008) than those students who do not bully (Zubrick et al., 1997). These students are also more likely to have low academic competence (Strabstein & Piazza, 2008), are often more unhappy at school (Zubrick et al., 1997), and demonstrate an increased likelihood of engaging in delinquent behavior (Kumpulainen & Rasanen, 2000; Van der Wal et al., 2003), smoking, drinking alcohol and substance use (Kaltiala-Heino, Rimpela, Rantanen, & Rimpela, 2000; Nansel et al., 2001; Strabstein & Piazza, 2008.

The majority of studies on the topic have been conducted in schools, focusing on bullying among children and youth (Boulton & Smith, 1994; Olweus, 1978; Salmivalli, Lagerspetz, Björkqvist, Österman, & Kaukiainen, 1996; Veenstra et al., 2005) since the majority of time bullying happens at school. Fuller Middle School spoke with the school counselor and social worker about bullying and its impact on adolescents, When bullying happens to an adolescent they oftentimes think If I come forward would I have retaliation, is it really going to end? Will I have retaliation if they come forward?

You see a group of children, maybe around 12, taunting another child. You hear the group calling names, and you watch in horror as one of the children in the group shoves the other child to the ground. The others laugh and mock the teenager as he lies on the ground. What do you do? Teenagers can be so cruel to each other.

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Bullying is a wicked and serious problem facing teenagers around the country. 83% of girls and 79% of boys report experiencing harassment. Reviews of school-based bullying programs suggest single-level programs are unlikely to provide an effective solution due to the systemic and complex nature of bullying (Smith, Schneider, Smith, & Ananiadou, 2004; Vreeman & Carroll, 2007). Rather, evidence suggests that multidisciplinary whole-school interventions are the most effective, non-stigmatizing means to prevent and manage bullying behavior (Cross et al., 2011; Rigby & Slee, 2008; Smith, Ananiadou, & Cowie, 2003; Stevens, Bourdeaudhuij, & Van Oost, 2001; Vreeman & Carroll, 2007). Consistent with an ecological framework (Bronfenbrenner, 1977), a whole-school approach to reducing bullying usually targets the school level (policy, classroom, and school climate, behavior support, peer support, schoolyard improvements); the classroom level (curriculum); the home level (engaging and involving parents) and the individual level (working with higher risk students; Cross et al., 2011). A universal intervention has the potential to reach those who are bullied, those who bully others, and bystanders to the bullying, and over time promotes, policy, practice, and a positive ethos at a whole-school level that fosters sustainability (Michaud, 2009).

The outcomes of a recent comprehensive meta-analysis of school-based bullying programs concluded that whole-school programs are effective in reducing bullying and being bullied and have achieved a reduction in rates of bullying on average by 20% to 23%, and being bullied by 17% to 20% (Ttofi & Farrington, 2011). However, other recent reviews of antibullying interventions (Baldry & Farrington, 2007; Ferguson, Miguel, Kilburn, & Sanchez, 2007; Merrell & Isava, 2008; Rigby, 2002; Rigby & Slee, 2008; Smith et al., 2004; Vreeman & Carroll, 2007) have revealed mixed results. One review concluded that whole-school bullying interventions were modestly successful at most (Rigby & Slee, 2008). Two reviews by Vreeman and Carroll (2007) and Baldry and Farrington (2007) found in their assessment of 26 and 16 school-based bullying interventions respectively, that approximately half of the studies had positive outcomes with the remaining half showing mixed, small, or undesirable effects. Vreeman and Carroll (2007) divided their examination between classroom curriculum studies, whole-school interventions, and targeted social and behavioral skills training with the most promising results reported for whole-school interventions. School-wide rules and consequences for bullying, teacher training, conflict resolution strategies, and classroom curriculum were found to be more effective than classroom curriculum and social skills training alone. A quantitative evaluation of anti-bullying interventions conducted by Smith et al. (2004) transformed original scores from 14 whole-school programs into effect sizes revealing that 93% of the outcomes for victimization and bullying in both controlled and uncontrolled studies were negligible or even negative. While an abundance of programs to reduce bullying are developed, many are not formally evaluated (Smokowski & Kopasz, 2005). Of those programs that have been evaluated, many are not sufficiently detailed to enable re-analyses of data making it difficult to disentangle the effects of individual components of the multicomponent whole-school approach (Baldry & Farrington, 2007). Only one meta-analysis (Ttofi & Farrington, 2011) correlated program strategies with the effect sizes for being bullied and bullying others and found that the most effective program components for reducing the prevalence of being bullied were the use of videos, disciplinary methods, parent training/meetings and cooperative group work between professionals. The most effective program components associated with a decrease in bullying were: parent training/meetings, teacher training, improved playground supervision, disciplinary methods, cooperative group work between professionals, school assemblies, information for parents, classroom rules and classroom management, as well as a whole-school anti-bullying policy. Despite the varying success of a whole-school approach, the results from evaluations support the continued development and implementation of school-based bullying programs, at least until further evaluations are conducted to suggest otherwise (Baldry & Farrington, 2007; Smith et al., 2004). This highlights, however, the need for future research to provide a more in-depth evaluation of the effectiveness of whole-school strategies to reduce bullying.

The 2004 Validated Guidelines for School-Based Bullying Prevention and Management 2004 ‘Validated Guidelines for School-Based Bullying Prevention and Management’ (Cross, Pintabona, Hall, Hamilton, & Erceg, 2004) were developed by Natasha Pearce, Donna Cross, Helen Monks, Stacey Waters, and Sarah Falconer based on a year-long formative study that identified, reviewed and validated evidence-based strategies to reduce bullying behaviors in schools. This study comprised three major stages: a comprehensive literature review of available empirical evidence; 81 case studies of quality bullying prevention practice in schools that matched the collated evidence; and a Delphi Technique process involving 20 international experts to assess the content and validity of the proposed guidelines for accuracy, completeness and appropriateness (Cross et al., 2004). The guidelines were organized within six broad domains based on the health-promoting schools model (World Health Organization, 1996) including policy and practice, classroom management and curriculum, school ethos, physical environment, school–home–community links, and student services.

These guidelines were later operationalized into a whole-school program called Friendly Schools and tested as part of a three-year randomized group controlled intervention trial (2000–2002) with 1,968 students from 29 schools. The results indicated that intervention students were significantly less likely to observe bullying at 12, 24, and 36 months and be bullied after 12 and 36 months, and significantly more likely to tell if bullied after 12 months than comparison students (Cross et al., 2011). The findings suggest that the Friendly Schools program which targeted students at the whole-school, classroom, and home levels, has the potential to reduce children’s experiences of bullying behavior and increase their likelihood of telling someone if they are bullied (Cross et al., 2011). Following the success of the Friendly Schools study, the guidelines were again tested (2002–2004) as part of a second randomized controlled trial in primary schools called Friendly Schools Friendly Families with positive results (Cross et al., 2008), and then again (2005–2007) in a secondary school environment (Cross et al., 2008). During the secondary study, called Supportive Schools, it became evident that schools were beginning to experience difficulty with student cyberbullying behavior, not addressed in the 2004 guidelines.

Because cyberbullying is a relatively new form of bullying, there is limited research to identify its specific correlates, causes, and effects, and as such it is difficult to determine specific interventions to address this behavior. However, lessons learned from effective face-to-face bullying interventions are an important first step to meet the urgent demand from policymakers and practitioners to respond to this challenging behavior. This article describes a summary of the current empirical evidence used to review the original guidelines, particularly as it relates to emerging forms of bullying, such as cyberbullying, and details the updated ‘Evidence to Practice: Whole-School Indicators to Reduce Bullying’, to enable schools to put this evidence into informed practice.


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