Prevention Science

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 833–847 | Cite as

Evaluation of the Olweus Bully Prevention Program in an Urban School System in the USA

  • Albert D. Farrell
  • Terri N. Sullivan
  • Kevin S. Sutherland
  • Rosalie Corona
  • Saba Masho


This study evaluated the Olweus Bully Prevention Program (OBPP) in urban middle schools serving a mostly African American student population. Participants were 1791 students from three communities with high rates of crime and poverty. We evaluated the impact of the OBPP using a multiple-baseline experimental design in which we randomized the order and timing of intervention activities across three schools. We assessed the frequency of violence and victimization using self-report and teachers’ ratings of students collected every 3 months over 5 years. Initiation of the OBPP was associated with reductions in teachers’ ratings of students’ frequency of aggression, with effects emerging in different years of implementation for different forms of aggression. Whereas reductions in teachers’ ratings of students’ verbal and relational aggression and victimization were evident during the second implementation year, reductions in physical aggression did not appear until the third year. Effects were consistent across gender and schools, with variability across grades for relational and verbal aggression and victimization. In contrast, there were no intervention effects on students’ reports of their behavior. Positive outcomes for teachers’, but not students’ ratings, suggest the intervention’s effects may have been limited to the school context. Variation in when effects emerged across outcomes suggests that changes in physical aggression may require more sustained intervention efforts. The intervention was also associated with increases in teachers’ concerns about school safety problems, which may indicate that teachers were more attuned to recognizing problem behaviors following exposure to the OBPP.


Olweus Bully Prevention Program Violence prevention School intervention Evaluation Aggression 



The authors are grateful to John Ferron for his input on this project’s design and analysis, and to Anne Greene who served as project coordinator.


This study was funded by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Cooperative Agreement 5U01CE001956. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Bauer, N. S., Lozano, P., & Rivara, F. P. (2007). The effectiveness of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in public middle schools: A controlled trial. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40, 266–274. Scholar
  2. Biglan, A., Ary, D., & Wagenaar, A. C. (2000). The value of interrupted time-series experiments for community intervention research. Prevention Science, 1, 31–49. Scholar
  3. Black, S. A., & Jackson, E. (2007). Using bullying incident density to evaluation the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. School Psychology International, 28, 623–638. Scholar
  4. Bosworth, K., Espelage, D. L., & Simon, T. R. (1999). Factors associated with bullying behavior in middle school students. Journal of Early Adolescence, 19, 341–362. Scholar
  5. Bowllan, N. M. (2011). Implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive, school-wide bullying prevention program in an urban/suburban middle school. Journal of School Health, 81, 167–173. Scholar
  6. Crone, D. A., Hawken, L. S., & Horner, R. H. (2010). Responding to problem behavior in schools: The behavior education program (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  7. Eslea, M., & Smith, P. K. (1998). The long-term effectiveness of anti-bullying work in primary schools. Educational Research, 40, 203–218. Scholar
  8. Farrell, A. D., & Vulin-Reynolds, M. (2007). Violent behavior and the science of prevention. In D. Flannery, A. Vazonsyi, & I. Waldman (Eds.), Cambridge handbook of violent behavior (pp. 766–786). New York: Cambridge University Press. Scholar
  9. Farrell, A. D., Mays, S., Bettencourt, A., Erwin, E. H., Vulin-Reynolds, M., & Allison, K. W. (2010). Environmental influences on fighting versus nonviolent behavior in peer situations: A qualitative study with urban African American adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 46, 19–35. Scholar
  10. Farrell, A. D., Sullivan, T. N., Goncy, E. A., & Le, A. T. H. (2016). Assessment of adolescents’ victimization, aggression, and problem behaviors: Evaluation of the Problem Behavior Frequency Scale. Psychological Assessment, 28, 702–714. Scholar
  11. Farrell, A. D., Thompson, E. L., Sullivan, T. N., & Goncy, E. A. (2017). Assessment of adolescents’ victimization, aggression, and problem behaviors: Evaluation of the Problem Behavior Frequency Scale - Adolescent Report. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  12. Farrell, A. D., Goncy, E. A., Sullivan, T. N., & Thompson, E. L. (2018). Evaluation of the problem behavior frequency scale—teacher report form for assessing behavior in a sample of urban adolescents. Psychological Assessment.
  13. Fuentes, V. E., Goncy, E. A., & Sutherland, K. S. (2015). Cross-cultural perspectives after participation in the YES program: A pilot study. Journal of Youth Development, 10, 64–73. Scholar
  14. Goncy, L. A., Sutherland, K. S., Farrell, A. D., Sullivan, T. N., & Doyle, S. T. (2015). Measuring teacher implementation in delivery of a bullying prevention program: The impact of instructional and protocol adherence and competence on student responsiveness. Prevention Science, 16, 440–450. Scholar
  15. Gordon, D. A. (2000). Parent training via CD-ROM: Using technology to disseminate effective prevention practices. Journal of Primary Prevention, 21, 227–251. Scholar
  16. Haggerty, K. P., Skinner, M. L., MacKenzie, E. P., & Catalano, R. F. (2007). A randomized trial of parents who care: Effects on key outcomes at 24-month follow-up. Prevention Science, 8, 249–260. Scholar
  17. Han, S. S., & Weiss, B. (2005). Sustainability of teacher implementation of school-based mental health programs. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 33, 665–679. Scholar
  18. Henry, D. B., Farrell, A. D., Schoeny, M. E., Tolan, P. H., & Dymnicki, A. (2011). Influence of school-level variables on aggression and associated attitudes during middle school. Journal of School Psychology, 49, 481–503. Scholar
  19. Lai, T., & Kao, G. (2018). Hit, robbed, and put down (but not bullied): Underreporting of bullying by minority and male students. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 47, 618–635. Scholar
  20. Limber, S. P. (2011). Development, evaluation, and future directions of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Journal of School Violence, 10, 71–87. Scholar
  21. Matjasko, J. L., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Massetti, G. M., Holland, K. M., Holt, M. K., & Cruz, J. D. (2012). A systematic meta-review of evaluations of youth violence prevention programs: Common and divergent findings from 25 years of meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17, 540–552. Scholar
  22. Matjasko, J. L., Massetti, G. M., & Bacon, S. (2016). Implementing and evaluating comprehensive evidence-based approaches to prevent youth violence: Partnering to create communities where youth are safe from violence. Journal of Primary Prevention, 37, 109–119. Scholar
  23. Melton, G. B., Limber, S. P., Cunningham, P., Osgood, D. W., Chambers, J., Flerx, V., et al. (1998). Violence among rural youth. Final report to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.Google Scholar
  24. Olweus, D. (2005). A useful evaluation design, and effects of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Psychology, Crime, & Law, 11, 389–402. Scholar
  25. Olweus, D., & Alsaker, F. D. (1991). Assessing change in a cohort longitudinal study with hierarchical data. In D. Magnusson, L. R. Bergman, G. Rudinger, & B. Torestad (Eds.), Problems and methods in longitudinal research (pp. 107–132). New York: Cambridge University Press. Scholar
  26. Olweus, D., & Limber, S. P. (2010). Bullying in school: Evaluation and dissemination of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80, 124–134. Scholar
  27. O'Moore, A. M., & Minton, S. J. (2005). Evaluation of the effectiveness of an anti-bullying programme in primary schools. Aggressive Behavior, 31, 609–622. Scholar
  28. Pepler, D. J., Craig, W. M., Ziegler, S., & Charach, A. (1994). An evaluation of an anti-bullying intervention in Toronto schools. Canadian Journal of Community, 13, 95–110. Scholar
  29. Schroeder, B. A., Messina, A., Schroeder, D., Good, K., Barto, S., Saylor, J., & Masiello, M. (2012). The implementation of a statewide bullying prevention program: Preliminary findings from the field and the importance of coalitions. Health Promotion Practice, 13, 489–495. Scholar
  30. Sullivan, T. N., Sutherland, K. S., Farrell, A. D., & Taylor, K. A. (2016). School as venues for prevention programming. In K. Bosworth (Ed.), Prevention science in school settings: Complex relationships and processes (pp. 201–226). Springer: New York.Google Scholar
  31. Zimmerman, M. A., Stewart, S. E., Morrel-Samuels, S., Franzen, S., & Reischl, T. M. (2011). Youth empowerment solutions for peaceful communities: Combining theory and practice in a community-level violence prevention curriculum. Health Promotion Practice, 12, 425–439. Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Prevention Research 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Department of Counseling and Special EducationVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  3. 3.Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, School of MedicineVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

Personalised recommendations