In my ongoing quest to find effective anti-bullying programs to recommend to my clients, I ran across two recent literature reviews. Both continued the depressing trend of finding no significant impact from the programs.
One 2015 meta-analysis of anti-bullying programs in several countries found some reductions in bullying behaviors, but no statistically significant changes. Another review of studies of bystander programs found some of the programs to be “promising,” but could not identify any statistically significant improvements, particularly over the long term.
The most frustrating part of these two reviews is their inability to identify which aspects of the various programs show the most promise. Researchers simply do not know why some programs show some modest effects and others show none. Parents, governments, and plaintiff’s lawyers demand anti-bullying programs, but there simply are no evidence-based interventions. Youth organizations can choose from a variety of programs that make adults feel good, but apparently none that actually affect children’s behavior.
Until we have more robust research, the best we can do is pay attention to the problem, listen to individual children, and try to teach children how to deal with conflict.