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UCLA Prof: Schools' Anti-Bullying Efforts Should Focus on Friendship

Children with social connections -- even just one friend -- are at less risk of suffering severe symptoms after being bullied, said study author Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology.

A UCLA professor suggests that schools could cut bullying if they make sure students aren't isolated. Patch file photo.
A UCLA professor suggests that schools could cut bullying if they make sure students aren't isolated. Patch file photo.

Initiatives to curtail bullying in schools are often ineffective, according to a UCLA analysis of studies of K-12 bullying issued today.

The analysis showed that schools are trying various approaches to protect students from bullies and, while the more comprehensive programs have been the most effective, they require commitment and school resources to be successful.

"Band-Aid solutions, such as holding one assembly a year that discourages bullying, do not work," said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the review. "We are trying to figure out the right balance between comprehensive programs that are costly and require a lot of staff training versus programs that require fewer school resources."

The review, published in the journal Annual Review of Psychology, also debunks some common misconceptions about bullying.

For example, while it was previously assumed that verbal aggression and exclusion were bullying tactics used more commonly by girls than by boys, the analysis revealed that boys use the tactics as much as girls do.

Perhaps less surprisingly, Juvonen said, gay and lesbian students and students who are overweight tend to get bullied significantly more than other students.

"Starting in elementary school, kids with characteristics that make them stand out are much more likely to get bullied," said Juvonen, who consults with several schools on anti-bullying programs. "They are prime targets for bullies because they are more likely to be friendless, and when they have nobody to defend them, the bullying often escalates."

Children with social connections -- even just one friend -- are at less risk of suffering severe symptoms after being bullied, Juvonen said.

That indicates that schools could do a better job of preventing bullying by making sure students are not isolated, for example, by not eating lunch alone, she said.

--City News Service


Martha Fling April 02, 2014 at 09:58 AM
"Connection is protection"...Jean Malpas at The Gender Project at Ackerman Institute for the Family. Good work by Juvonen.

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