Theatrical Activities in Primary School: Effects on Children’s Emotion Regulation and Bullying

Abstract

Many social, cognitive, emotional, and motivational aspects intervene in promoting children’s well-being at school, or, conversely, in affecting their distress. It is, therefore, paramount to implement interventions addressing them in the classrooms. A workshop based on Social Theatre activities is proposed, with the aim of improving relational and emotional comfort by reducing bullying and bystanding behavior and increasing defending behavior and emotion regulation. The sample included 96 children (51 girls, mean age: 7.75 years), who were randomly assigned to an experimental group (EG, n = 49, two classes) and a control group (CG, n = 47, two classes). The EG participated in a 4-month theatrical workshop, in which games and exercises were proposed to work on poetry, improvisation, and to create small plays and a final performance. The CG did not participate in any activity. Questionnaires were administered to both groups before (T1) and after (T2) the workshop to assess bullying-related behaviors (bullying, victimization, outsider behavior, and defending behavior; students’ self-reports) and emotion regulation and lability/negativity (Emotion Regulation Checklist; teachers’ version). Results showed that the workshop contributed, although modestly, to stable emotion regulation and to reduce outsider behavior in boys. In addition, a decrease of emotion regulation in the CG was associated with an increase of outsider behavior at T2. Although further studies are needed, these findings are promising in demonstrating the effectiveness of the Social Theatre workshop for improving well-being at school.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. Beare, D., & Belliveau, G. (2007). Theatre for positive youth development: a development model for collaborative play-creating. Applied Theatre Researcher/IDEA Journal, 8, 1–16.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bernardi, C. (2014). Il teatro sociale. L’arte tra disagio e cura [Social theatre: Arts between distress and cure]. Roma: Carocci Editore.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bernardi, C. & Innocenti Malini, G. (2015a). From performance to action. Il teatro sociale tra rappresentazione, relazione e azione [Social theatre between rappresentation, relationship, and action]. Proceedings of the Congress “Thinking the theatre. New theatrology and performance studies” (CUT-Consulta Universitaria del Teatro), Turin, Italy.

  4. Bernardi, C. & Innocenti Malini, G. (2015b). Performare la societas. Le intersezioni del teatro sociale e della performance nella riflessione e prassi contemporanee [Performing societies. The intersections of social theatre and performance in contemporary thinking and praxis]. Resource document. http://www.academia.edu/21820805/Performare_la_societas._Le_intersezioni_del_teatro_sociale_e_della_performance_nella_riflessione_e_prassi_contemporanee. Accessed 25 March 2017.

  5. Bhukhanwala, F. (2014). Theater of the oppressed in an after-school program: middle school students’ perspectives on bullying and prevention. Middle School Journal, 46, 3–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/00940771.2014.11461899.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Boehm, A., & Boehm, E. (2003). Community theatre as a means of empowerment in social work: a case study of women’s community theatre. Journal of Social Work, 3(3), 283–300. https://doi.org/10.1177/146801730333002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Burton, B., & O’Toole, J. (2009). Power in their hands: The outcomes of the acting against bullying research project. Applied Theatre Researcher/IDEA Journal, 10, 1–15.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Camodeca, M., & Coppola, G. (2019). Participant roles in preschool bullying: the impact of emotion regulation, social preference, and quality of the teacher-child relationship. Social Development. https://doi.org/10.1111/sode.12320.

  9. Camodeca, M., Goossesn, F. A., Meereum Terwogt, M., & Schuengel, C. (2002). Bullying and victimization among school age children: stability and links to proactive and reactive aggression. Social Development, 11, 332–345. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9507.00203.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) (2009). Social and emotional learning and bullying prevention. Washington, D.C.: American Institute for Research. Resource document. https://www.casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/3_SEL_and_Bullying_Prevention_2009.pdf. Accessed 23 January 2019.

  11. Costa, N., Faccio, E., Belloni, E., & Iudici, A. (2014). Drama experience in educational interventions. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116, 4977–4982. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.01.1058.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Denham, S. A., Blair, K. A., Demulder, E., Levitas, J., Sawyer, K., Auerbach-Major, S., & Queenan, P. (2003). Preschool emotional competence: pathway to social competence? Child Development, 74, 238–256. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00533.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Douglas, N., Warwick, I., Whitty, G., & Aggleton, P. (2000). Vital youth: Evaluating a theatre in health education project. Health Education, 100, 207–215. https://doi.org/10.1108/09654280010343582.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Flay, B. R., Biglan, A., Boruch, R. F., Castro, F. G., Gottfredson, D., Kellam, S., et al. (2005). Standards of evidence: criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6, 151–175. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-005-5553-y.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Freeman, G., Sullivan, K., & Fulton, C. (2003). Effects of creative drama on self-concept, social skills, and problem behaviour. The Journal of Educational Research, 96, 131–138. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220670309598801.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Gaffney, H., Ttofi, M. M., & Farrington, D. P. (2018). Evaluating the effectiveness of school-bullying prevention programs: an updated meta-analytical review. Aggression and Violent Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2018.07.001.

  17. Garaigordobil, M. (2009). A comparative analysis of empathy in childhood and adolescence: gender differences and associated socio-emotional variables. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 2009(9), 217–235.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Garner, P. W., & Stowe Hinton, T. (2010). Emotional display rules and emotion self-regulation: associations with bullying and victimization in community-based after school programs. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 20, 480–496. https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.1057.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Gini, G., Albiero, P., Benelli, B., & Altoè, G. (2008). Determinants of adolescents’ active defending and passive bystanding behavior in bullying. Journal of Adolescence, 31, 93–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2007.05.002.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. Gjærum, R. G., & Ramsdal, G. H. (2008). Forum theatre’s positive impact on self-esteem in conflict. Applied Theatre Researcher/IDEA Journal, 9, 1–18.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Goossens, F. A., Olthof, T., & Dekker, P. H. (2006). New participant role scales: comparison between various criteria for assigning roles and indications for their validity. Aggressive Behavior, 32, 343–357. https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.20133.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Graves, K., Frabutt, J., & Vigliano, D. (2007). Teaching conflict resolution skills to middle and high school students through interactive drama and role play. Journal of School Violence, 6, 57–79. https://doi.org/10.1300/J202v06n04_04.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Greenberg, M. T., Weissberg, R. P., O’Brien, M. U., Zins, J. E., Fredericks, L., Resnik, H., & Elias, M. J. (2003). Enhancing school-based prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional, and academic learning. American Psychologist, 58, 466–474. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.58.6-7.466.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Gross, J. J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences. Psychophysiology, 39, 281–291. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0048577201393198.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Guerra, M., & Militello, R. (2012). Tra scuola e teatro. Per una didattica dei laboratori teatrali a scuola. [Between school and theatre. For a theatrical workshop education at school]. Milano: Franco Angeli Editore.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Hawkins, D. L., Pepler, D. J., & Craig, W. M. (2001). Naturalistic observations of peer interventions in bullying. Social Development, 10, 512–527. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9507.00178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Hay, D. F., Payne, A., & Chadwick, A. (2004). Peer relations in childhood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 84–108. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.0021-9630.2003.00308.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Hernandez, M. M., Eisenberg, N., Valiente, C., Spinrad, T. L., VanSchyndel, S. K., Diaz, A., et al. (2015). Observed emotion frequency versus intensity as predictors of socioemotional maladjustment. Emotion, 15, 699–704. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000099.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  29. Hui, A., & Lau, S. (2006). Drama education: a touch of the creative mind and communicative-expressive ability of elementary school children in Hong Kong. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 1, 34–40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2005.06.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Innocenti Malini, G. (2017). Il teatro sociale [Social theatre]. In A. Grasso (Ed.), Storia della comunicazione e dello spettacolo in Italia. Volume III. I media alla sfida della convergenza (dal 1979 a oggi) [History of communication and performance in Italy. Volume III. Media in front of the convergence challenge (from 1979 to now)] (pp. 268–271). Vita & Pensiero: Milan.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Joronen, K., Konu, A., Rankin, H., & Astedt-Kurki, P. (2011). An evaluation of a drama program to enhance social relationships and anti-bullying at elementary school: a controlled study. Health Promotion International, 27, 5–14. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/dar012.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Kardaş, M. N., & Koç, R. (2017). Effect of drama instruction method on students' Turkish verbal skills and speech anxiety. International Journal of Progressive Education, 13, 64–78.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Kärnä, A., Voeten, M., Little, T. D., Poskiparta, E., Kaljonen, A., & Salmivalli, C. (2011). A large-scale evaluation of the KiVa antibullying program: Grades 4–6. Child Development, 82, 311–330. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01557.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Lemerise, E. A., & Arsenio, W. F. (2000). An integrated model of emotion processes and cognition in social information processing. Child Development, 71, 107–118. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.00124.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Mavroudis, N., & Bournelli, P. (2016). The role of drama in education in counteracting bullying in schools. Cogent Education, 3, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2016.1233843.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Mazzone, A., Camodeca, M., & Salmivalli, C. (2016). Interactive effects of guilt and moral disengagement on bullying, defending and outsider behavior. Journal of Moral Education, 45, 419–432. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057240.2016.121639.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Molina, P., Sala, M. N., Zappulla, C., Bonfigliuoli, C., Cavioni, V., Zanetti, M. A., … Cicchetti, D. (2014). The emotion regulation checklist–Italian translation. Validation of parent and teacher versions. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 11, 624-634. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17405629.2014.898581.

  38. Moneta, I., & Rousseau, C. (2008). Emotional expression and regulation in a school-based drama workshop for immigrant adolescents with behavioral and learning difficulties. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 35, 329–340. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2008.07.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: what we know and what we can do. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Pozzoli, T., Gini, G., & Vieno, A. (2012). The role of individual correlates and class norms in defending and passive bystanding behavior in bullying: a multilevel analysis. Child Development, 83, 1917–1931. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01831.x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Pronk, J., Goossens, F. A., Olthof, T., De Mey, L., & Willemen, A. M. (2013). Children’s intervention strategies in situations of victimization by bullying: Social cognitions of outsiders versus defenders. Journal of School Psychology, 51, 669–682. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2013.09.002.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Rieffe, C., & Camodeca, M. (2016). Empathy in adolescence: relations with emotion awareness and social roles. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 34, 340–353. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjdp.12133.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Rossi Ghiglione, A., & Pagliarino, A. (2011). Fare teatro sociale [Playing social theatre]. Rome: Dino Audino Editore.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Rydell, A. M., Berlin, L., & Bohlin, G. (2003). Emotionality, emotion regulation, and adaptation among 5- to 8-year-old children. Emotion, 3, 30–47. https://doi.org/10.1037/1528-3542.3.1.30.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  45. Salmivalli, C. (2010). Bullying and the peer group: a review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15, 112–120. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2009.08.007.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Salmivalli, C., Lagerspetz, K., Björkqvist, K., Österman, K., & Kaukiainen, A. (1996). Bullying as a group process: participant roles and their relations to social status within the group. Aggressive Behavior, 22(1), 1–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Saxton, J., & Prendergast, M. (2009). Applied theatre: international case studies and challenges for practice. Bristol: Intellect.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Shields, A., & Cicchetti, D. (1997). Emotion regulation among school-age children: The development and validation of a new criterion Q-sort scale. Developmental Psychology, 33, 906. https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.33.6.906.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  49. Shields, A., & Cicchetti, D. (2001). Parental maltreatment and emotion dysregulation as risk factors for bullying and victimization in middle childhood. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 30, 349–363. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15374424JCCP3003_7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. Sijtsma, K. (2009). On the use, the misuse, and the very limited usefulness of Cronbach’s alpha. Psychometrika, 74, 107–120. https://doi.org/10.1007/S11336-008-9101-0.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  51. Smith, P. K., Morita, Y., Junger-Tas, J., Olweus, D., Catalano, R. F., & Slee, P. (1999). The nature of school bullying. A cross-national perspective. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Srabstein, J. C., & Merrick, J. (2013). Bullying: A public health concern. New York: Nova Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Sutton, J., & Smith, P. K. (1999). Bullying as a group process: an adaptation of the participant role approach. Aggressive Behavior, 25, 97–111. https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1098-2337(1999)25:2<97::AID-AB3>3.0.CO;2-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Tavakol, M., & Dennick, R. (2011). Making sense of Cronbach’s alpha. International Journal of Medical Education, 2, 53–55. https://doi.org/10.5116/ijme.4dfb.8dfd.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  55. Thornberg, R., Tenenbaum, L., Varjas, K., Meyers, J., Jungert, T., & Vanegas, G. (2012). Bystander motivation in bullying incidents: to intervene or not to intervene? The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 13, 247–252. https://doi.org/10.5811/westjem.2012.3.11792.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  56. Van der Ploeg, R., Steglich, C., & Veenstra, R. (2016). The support group approach in the Dutch KiVa anti-bullying programme: effects on victimisation, defending and well-being at school. Educational Research, 58, 221–236. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131881.2016.1184949.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Veiga, G., Neto, C., & Rieffe, C. (2016). Preschoolers’ free play: connections with emotional and social functioning. The International Journal of Emotional Education, 8, 48–62 ISSN 2073-7629.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Walsh-Bowers, R. (1992). A creative drama prevention program for easing early adolescent’s adjustment to school transitions. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 13, 131–147. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01325071.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  59. Walsh-Bowers, R., & Basso, R. (1999). Improving early adolescents’ peer relation through classroom creative drama: An integrated approach. Social Work in Education, 21, 23–32. https://doi.org/10.1093/cs/21.1.23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Maria Serena Maierna.

Ethics declarations

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study, involving human participants, were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Milano-Bicocca, the Italian Association of Psychology, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from the parents or tutors of all participants included in the study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Maierna, M.S., Camodeca, M. Theatrical Activities in Primary School: Effects on Children’s Emotion Regulation and Bullying. Int Journal of Bullying Prevention 3, 13–23 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42380-019-00057-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Outsider behavior
  • Social Theatre
  • Emotion regulation
  • Primary school