Current Perspectives on Linking School Bullying Research to Effective Prevention Strategies

  • Dorothy L. Espelage
  • Susan M. Swearer

In the prevention literature, the terms “primary,” “secondary,” and “tertiary” refer to specific prevention and intervention strategies designed to reduce problem behavior in youth. Perhaps the most widely recognized model that embraces this three-tiered model is Positive Behavior Supports (PBS; Sprague & Golly, 2004; Sprague & Walker, 2005). PBS is a systems-based, behaviorally focused prevention and intervention set of strategies designed to improve educational outcomes and social development for all students. PBS models illustrate that approximately 80% of students will need primary prevention strategies, 15% will need secondary prevention strategies, and 5% will need tertiary prevention strategies. Applied to the problem of bullying, the goal of primary prevention is to reduce the number of new cases of bullying. The idea is that through wholeschool and classroom-wide strategies, new incidents of bullying can be curtailed. Fifteen percent of students will need secondary prevention strategies designed to reduce engagement in bullying. These might be the students who are involved in bullying as a bystander or students who are involved in bullying less frequently or less severely. Finally, tertiary prevention strategies are designed for the 5% of students who are involved in frequent and intense bullying behaviors. These are the students who might have concomitant psychological problems (i.e., depression and anxiety) as a result of their involvement in bullying behaviors (Craig, 1998; Kaltiala-Heino et al., 2000; Kumpulainen et al., 2001; Swearer et al., 2001). The goal of tertiary prevention is to reduce complications, severity, and frequency of bullying behaviors. While not an exhaustive list, Figure 17.1 outlines three bullying prevention and intervention initiatives that illustrate the three PBS tiers. A description of these three initiatives will be provided in the next section of this chapter.


Middle School School Climate Proactive Aggression Current Perspective Bully Behavior 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorothy L. Espelage
    • 1
  • Susan M. Swearer
    • 2
  1. 1.Educational PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUSA
  2. 2.Educational PsychologyUniversity of Nebraska–LincolnUSA

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