Bully/victim problems in school: Facts and intervention

  • Dan Olweus


Bully/victim problems among school children are a matter of considerable concern in Scandinavia and, more recently, in a number of other countries as well. Estimates based on the author’s large-scale surveys indicate that some 9% of the students in grades 1 through 9 are fairly regular victims of bullying and that 6–7% engage in bullying others with some regularity. It is argued that it is a fundamental democratic right for a child to be spared the oppression and repeated humiliation implied in bullying. The author has developed a school-based intervention programme against bullying, the effects of which were evaluated in 42 schools over a period of two years. Analyses indicate that the frequency of bully/victim problems decreased by 50–70%. In addition, the prevalence of antisocial behaviours in general such as vandalism, theft, drunkenness and truancy showed a substantial drop. The main content of the “core” programme as well as its key principles are presented. The overriding goal of the programme can be described as a “restructuring of the social environment”. The programme emphasizes behaviours and attitudes characterized by a combination of positive involvement from teachers and parents, firm limits to unacceptable behaviour (“we dont accept bullying in our class/school”), and consistent use of non-hostile non-corporal sanctions on rule violations. Explanations of the positive results include changes in the opportunity and reward “structures” for bullying behaviour.

Key words

Aggression Bully Evaluation Intervention Victim 


Les problèmes de brutalité entre enfants et jeunes à l’école sont particulièrement préoccupants dans les pays Scandinaves et, de plus en plus, dans d’autres pays également. Des larges enquêtes réalisées par l’auteur, il ressort que du premier au neuvième grade, près de 9% des élèves sont très règulièrement victimes de brutalités et que 6–7% des élèves en agressent d’ autres régulièrement. En démocratie, c’est un droit fondamental des enfants que d’être protégés contre l’oppression et les humiliations répétées impliquées par ces pratiques. L’auteur a mis au point un programme d’intervention scolaire contre les brutalités, dont les effets ont été évalués dans 42 écoles pendant deux ans. Les résultats montrent que la fréquence des problèmes de violence a diminué de 50–70%. En outre, l’importance des comportements antisociaux en général, tels que le vandalisme, le vol, l’alcoolisme et les absences non autorisées, a notablement diminué. Les principaux contenus du programme et ses principes-clés sont présentés. L’objectif primordial du programme peut être décrit comme une “restructuration de l’environnement social”. Le programme met l’accent sur les comportements et les attitudes caractérisés par l’association d’engagements positifs des enseignants et des parents, des limites strictes aux comportements inacceptables (“nous n’acceptons pas la brutalité dans notre classe/école”), et l’utilisation cohérente de sanctions elles-mêmes non brutales en cas de violation des règles. Les résultats positifs obtenus sont mis sur le compte de changements structuraux relatifs aux occasions et aux bénéfices des comportements de brutalité.


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Copyright information

© Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisbon, Portugal/ Springer Netherlands 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dan Olweus
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Center for Health Promotion (HEMIL)University of BergenBergenNorway

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