Examining the effects of changing students' attitudes and school ecology on bullying behavior
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The current focus in bullying intervention programs has shifted from the traditional attention to bullies or victims of aggression in isolation, and instead focused on systemically targeting the ecology in which the behavior occurs. This study sought to determine if a six session classroom intervention coupled with a teacher education program was sufficient to alter the attitudes and behaviors related to overt aggression of fourth grade students. The treatment manual for this intervention was developed following a review of the literature on ecological intervention for overt and social/relational aggression. The objectives of the study's treatment program were to reduce bullying behaviors through an ecological approach by: 1) educating students on types of bullying (physical and social), the role of the bystander in contributing to the existence of bullying, and the consequences for individuals and the classroom environment when bullying occurs; 2) challenging sympathetic attitudes about the appropriateness of bullying; 3) providing students with strategies for intervening when they observe bullying; 4) modeling bystander interventions; 5) giving students an opportunity to practice bystander interventions; and 6) empowering classrooms to develop a code of conduct for working together to reduce bullying. Participants were 71 fourth grade students from a Central Texas elementary school. Participants completed self-report measures on attitudes related to the appropriateness of aggression and a peer-ratings measure of their classmates' frequency of prosocial behavior and overt aggression. Research questions sought to determine whether participants in the intervention would demonstrate: 1) decreased attitudes favorable to aggression; 2) increased prosocial behavior; and 3) reduced overt aggression. Results of the study supported the hypothesis of reductions in participants' peer-rated overt aggression but did not support hypotheses of reduced favorable attitudes towards aggression and increased peer-rated prosocial behavior. A supplementary analysis found that participants rated as most overtly aggressive by their peers demonstrated significant reductions in overt aggression following intervention. Implications and limitations of the study's findings are provided.