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Study Finds Anti-Bullying Programs Might Increase Rate of Bullying

Update Date: Sep 13, 2013 03:53 PM EDT
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In today's society, anti-bullying programs have become more and more popular in schools. Due to the fact that bullying can cause severe mental health issues as well as death, combatting this problem is a very important task. In a new study, however, researchers are reporting that schools with anti-bullying programs might actually be dealing with higher rates of bullying.

In this study, the lead researcher, Seokjin Jeong, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal Justice at University of Texas, Arlington worked with Byung Hyun Lee, a doctoral student in criminology from Michigan State University. Together, they examined data that was compiled from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children 2005-2006 study in the United States. This study, which is funded by the World Health Organization (WHO), has been conducted every four years since it started in 1985. The data set that the research team looked included 7,001 students between the ages of 12 and 18 who were from 195 different schools.

From this data, the team found that older students were less likely to be bullied when compared to younger students. The grades that were most affected by bullying were sixth, seventh and eight grade. The most pervasive type of bullying occurred in high school. When it came to sex differences, boys were more likely to be physically bullied than girls whereas girls were more likely to be emotionally bullied than boys. The team did find that a lack of parental or teacher intervention resulted in higher rates of bullying. Although all of these findings are pretty consistent with previous studies, the research team did find one particular aspect of bullying that was surprising.

The team found that anti-bullying programs did not help protect children from bullying. These programs are created to achieve this goal and this study is suggesting that the programs are falling short.

"One possible reason for this is that the students who are victimizing their peers have learned the language from these anti-bullying campaigns and programs," Jeong explained. "These schools with interventions say, 'You shouldn't do this' or 'you shouldn't do that.' But through the programs, the students become highly exposed to what a bully is and they know what to do or say when questioned by parents or teachers."

The researchers believe that programs need to incorporate more sophisticated methods in preventing bullying. The team believes that these programs must be better at communicating and connecting with the students, whether they are the bullies or the victims.

"This important discovery will result in improvements in health, in learning, and in relationships, with unlimited positive impact," commented Beth Wright, the dean of the UT Arlington College of Liberal Arts.

The press release from UT Arlington can be found here. The study was published in the Journal of Criminology

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