Positive Peer Relationships and Bullying
Positive peer relationships are significantly associated with lower rates of bullying, higher rates of life satisfaction and school connectedness, and increased social support (4). So, seeking to promote such relationships in an attempt to preempt bullying may facilitate multiple beneficial outcomes for students. Positive peer relationships can be achieved by the following:
- increasing students’ awareness of bullying relationships
- teaching them to recognize and manage emotions
- enabling them with cognitive strategies for problem solving; providing character (i.e., moral and ethical) education
- empowering them with general social skills to navigate interpersonal relationships (3).
The purpose of our study was to investigate the effectiveness of a classroom-based intervention that aims to reduce and prevent bullying at school by promoting positive peer relationships among students. The intervention program was the Classroom Resource of the Promoting Positive Peer Relationships (P3R)—Middle School Bullying Prevention Program (1). Given the findings of previous intervention research (2) and recognizing that P3R Classroom Resource includes many of the factors that facilitate positive relationships that were mentioned above, it was hypothesized that the intervention would have the following effects:
- enhance students’ attitudes towards bullies, victims, and bullying in general;
- improve students’ perceptions of their local school’s efforts regarding bullying;
- be implemented with fidelity by a general-education teacher amidst typical school duties.
Approximately 200 seventh-graders participated in this intervention. During the 2008-2009 academic year, the school’s administration adopted the P3R curriculum as a mandatory element of the exploratory Health class, taken by all seventh-graders. Participants attended a junior high school that was located on the south-central coast of California and had a mostly White and Hispanic student population, with less than 10% of students from other ethnic groups.
P3R Classroom Resource
The P3R Classroom Resource is composed of a unique series of film-based resources for supporting students and educators in addressing the problem of bullying in schools. It consists of two separate films, produced with students in two distinctly different school environments. Each film is accompanied by two lesson plan options (i.e., 5-lesson or 8-lesson versions) that contain detailed support information for teachers including the following items:
- core objectives
- student briefings
- outlines of the video segments to show
- associated discussion questions
- student debriefings
- optional classroom activities
- optional homework
The content of this resource is designed to enhance awareness and understanding of bullying among students. It was also developed to maximize alignment with the National Standards for English Language Arts and the National Health Education Standards for sixth- through eight-grades.
The Health teacher administered the P3R intervention. One lesson was administered per class period per day and within one school week. Each class period was 50-minutes in duration, and each P3R lesson lasted approximately 35 to 45 minutes. Prior to initiating the first lesson, all students receiving the intervention completed the pretest measure in class. Students in the control group also completed the pretest measure during this time period. Following completion of the five lessons, students completed both of the assessments again so that changes in responses could be compared for those students who received the intervention (“intervention group”) and those who did not (“control group”).
The effects of the P3R program on student attitudes was assessed by using the Bullying Attitudinal Scale (BAS) and the Perceptions of School’s Efforts Regarding Bullying Scale (PSERBS). For the purposes of this study, each item on the two surveys was conceptualized as a unique attitude and was assessed independently for change.
To examine change in students’ at-risk-for-bullying-elevation responses regarding attitudes towards bullies, victims, bullying in general, and their school’s efforts regarding bullying, we analyzed the data from the pre- and post-test scores from each of the BAS and PSERBS items.
For the intervention group, results indicated significant changes in 7 BAS items and 2 PSERBS items; for the control group, results indicated significant differences in only 2 BAS items and 0 PSERBS items. The intervention group changed their attitudes on the following items:
- Most people who get bullied ask for it.
- Bullying is a problem for kids.
- Bullies hurt kids.
- I think bullies should be punished.
- Bullies make kids feel bad.
- I feel sorry for kids who are bullied.
- Being bullied is no big deal.
- Adults at my school help to support kids who are bullied.
- Policies and rules at my school help to minimize bullying.
Whereas, the control group changed their attitudes only the following two items:
- Most people who get bullied ask for it.
- Bullies don’t mean to hurt anybody.
Given that the intervention group revealed significant changes on the majority of attitudinal items while the control group revealed such changes on only a couple items, the intervention was associated with positive changes and deemed to be successful.
These results suggest that the P3R Classroom Resource is a promising school-based intervention that warrants further empirical investigation. Ultimately, these results suggest that P3R may be an effective intervention for facilitating changes in students’ attitudes regarding bullies, victims, bullying in general, and their school efforts surrounding bullying. And such attitudinal changes, if maintained, may contribute to reduced bullying behavior, contributing to better outcomes for students and safer school climates.
1) Faull, C., Swearer, S. M., Jimerson, S. R., Espelage, D. L., & Ng, R. (2008). Promoting positive peer relationships: Middle school bullying prevention program—Classroom resource. USA: Readymade Productions Ltd.
2) Merrell, K. W., Guelder, B. A., Ross, S. W., & Isava, D. M. (2008). How effective are school bullying intervention programs? A meta-analysis of intervention research. School Psychology Quarterly, 23, 26-42.
3) Oprinas, P., & Horne, A. M. (in press). Creating a positive school climate and developing social competence. In S. R. Jimerson, S. M. Swearer, & D. L. Espelage (Eds.), The Handbook of Bullying in Schools: An International Perspective. New York: Routledge.
4) Suldo, S. M., Huebner, E. S., Friedrich, A. A., & Gilman, R. (2009). Life satisfaction. In R. Gilman, E. S. Huebner, & M. J. Furlong (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology in schools (pp. 27-35). New York: Routledge.