In my quest to find good anti-bullying programs, I ran across a survey analysis concluding that family resilience factors may help. Although the analysis and underlying study looked at family dynamics, the results may apply just as well to youth programs.
Researcher presented their findings at the 2019 conference of the National Academy of Pediatrics. They analyzed data from the 2016-2017 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), an annual e-mail and web-based survey conducted by the Census Bureau. The 2016 survey included more than 364,000 families. The AAP researchers analyzed data about bullying and compared it to questions about family resilience. They found that “family resilience had a significant association with a lower rate of bullying others in children with up to 3 ACEs. It also had a significant protective effect against being bullied in children with up to 2 ACEs.”
The “ACEs” score that the presentation cites comes from the Adverse Childhood Experiences study that first quantified the correlation between particular childhood traumas and later health problems. Children with more ACEs had more health problems, including mental health issues. We know from other studies that children with high ACE scores also have a high likelihood of becoming a bully or a victim of bullying.
The 2016 NSCH study measured family resilience by asking parents how likely they were to respond to problems with each of the following coping mechanisms:
(a) talk together about what to do;
(b) work together to solve our problems;
(c) know we have strengths to draw on; and
(d) stay hopeful even in difficult times.
Although the NSCH suffers the weakness of relying on self-reporting, its sheer size offsets that problem to some degree. The AAP analysis of how parents might be able to help prevent bullying is in line with other studies showing that children with engaged parents and supportive schools show more resilience in overcoming ACEs.
Those studies also show how youth-serving organizations can learn from family resilience studies. We cannot tell parents how to raise their children, but we can model the coping skills in our own work. Communication, working together as a team, and staying hopeful are important mentoring tools that we can implement in our programs. It may be that the best bullying-prevention program available is establishing good relationships with traumatized children and helping them learn how to communicate and be positive.