The core of the book is the author’s account of the intervention program “What We Can Do About Bullying.” The goals of the program were: to reduce (or eliminate) both direct bullying (open physical or verbal attacks) and indirect bullying (social isolation, confidence reduction) to achieve better peer relations at school to create conditions that enabled victims and bullies to function better in and out of the school setting. The outcome of this intervention program not only makes fascinating reading but also provides valuable suggestions for action and evidence of encouraging results.
The preventative measures Olweus describes operate on several levels the school, the class, the individual bully or victim, and the parents. Many of the strategies suggested relate to research on school effectiveness and improvement which has stressed the importance of a shared school ethos, a consistency of approach, an agreed set of policies, a long-term action plan, and the involvement of parents.
The results are very encouraging. The intervention led to marked reductions in both direct and indirect bullying. That in itself is to be welcomed. Also important, however, is the finding that the program not only protected children in school, but also did not lead to antisocial activities being displaced to beyond the school premises. There were also benefits for parents in the form of a reduction in pupils’ associated antisocial behavior (such as vandalism) and, for teachers, a marked improvement in the school climate. Moreover, these benefits were sustained and, indeed, increased over time. The empirical findings of this meticulous work, together with the book’s final section of advice, provide a valuable source of ideas for those attempting to reduce the incidence of bullying or to cope with its effects.
Professor Olweus has been involved for many years in detailed longitudinal work on bullying in Scandinavia. This book provides an excellent opportunity for English-speaking policymakers and practitioners to share the fruits of his careful scholarship. As he points out in his concluding words, we now have the knowledge what is needed is the will to do something about a problem which causes so much pain and misery (and even, in extreme cases, suicide) for too many of our young people. For their sakes this book deserves to be read widely.
Professor Peter Mortimore
Institute Of Education
University Of London