Take Control! A manualized intervention for middle school bullies

Pamela L. Gallant (2006)

Bullying is a pervasive problem in schools and communities worldwide. Although various definitions of bullying are presented in the literature, researchers accept that bullying is a subtype of aggression. Bullying behavior involves physical or verbal threats, intimidation by a peer or group of peers, relational aggression (e.g., exclusion of peer from group, spreading rumors, etc.), and vicious verbal communication over the Internet with peers through the use of instant messaging, chat rooms, and e-mails. Factors that distinguish bullying from other maladaptive behaviors are the repeated pattern of aggressive behavior, the reoccurrence of aggressive behavior over a period of time, an imbalance of strength or power between the bully and the victim, and the victim's perceived inability to defend himself or herself. As a result of several studies being conducted at major universities significant advances are underway in our understanding of bullying, how it develops in children, and how to intervene. The cycle of violence starts in elementary school and develops into more serious forms of violent acts (e.g., physical assault, dating violence, and sexual harassment) by high school. The onset and development of bullying is best understood from a social-ecological perspective, through which bullying is shaped over time as the result of the interplay between the child and his or her environment (e.g., family characteristics, peer relations, school climate). Targeted intervention with bullies may decrease aggressive social interactions through the development of prosocial skills (e.g., problem-solving skills). In the current project, the author used a participatory-action research model to develop and pilot a short-term group intervention program for middle school bullies with the director of Youth Services Bureau (YSB) located in a rural county in NH. The program is based, in part, on existing violence reduction programs, Second Step: A Violence-prevention curriculum (Committee for children, 1990); Aggression Replacement Training (Goldstein, Glick, & Gibbs, 1998); and Student workshop: Anger-Management Skills (Sunburst Communications, 1999). The program contains three components (a) prosocial skills training, (b) anger management training, and (c) empathy training. Sessions consist of age-appropriate activities, modeling, role-playing, video vignettes, and lessons. Rationale and description of program evaluation is presented.