Judging the efficacy of anti-bullying programs


Bullying is a far too common problem in childhood. A meta-analysis examines the effectiveness of anti-bullying interventions.

Bullying has been a fact of life for many children over the decades. Fortunately for today’s younger generation, the notion that bullying is just “kids being kids” no longer works and many anti-bullying interventions have been developed to tackle the problem. A meta-analysis in JAMA Pediatrics looks at whether the programs were effective and had a positive impact.1

The researchers did a search through ERIC, PsycInfo, and Ovid MEDLINE databases using 3 sets of search terms to find randomized clinical trials that assessed anti-bullying. Studies were included if they assessed bullying in schools; were published in English; had a randomized clinical trial design; reported results; and examined the effectiveness of an anti-bullying programs. The outcomes looked at the impact of anti-bullying intervention on 8 variable categories including bullying exposure, mental health issues, attitudes that encourage bullying, overall bullying, bullying perpetration, cyberbullying, and school climate.

Investigators found 69 randomized clinical trials that included 77 samples, which totaled 111,659 participants. The average age of participants in the intervention group was 11.1 years and 10.8 years in the control group. Both intervention and control groups had roughly equal numbers of male and female participants. Overall, anti-bullying interventions were found to be effective in reducing bullying (effect size [ES], −0.150; 95% CI, −0.191 to −0.109) as well as improving mental health problems (ES, −0.205; 95% CI, −0.277 to −0.133) at the study’s end point, with population impact numbers for universal interventions meant to target the total population of 147 (95% CI, 113-213) and 107 (95% CI, 73-173), respectively. The duration of the anti-bullying intervention was not found to be statistically significantly linked to the effectiveness of the intervention and the effectiveness did not diminish during the course of follow-up.

The investigators concluded that overall the impact of anti-bullying intervention was substantial, even with some regional differences and small effect sizes. They believe that further study with better designs could help find the best timing for intervention and duration.


1. Fraguas D, Díaz-Caneja C, Ayora M, et al. Assessment of school anti-bullying interventions. JAMA Pediatr. November 3, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.3541

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