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Olweus Bullying Prevention Program

Ages 6-14

Rating: Level 2


The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is a universal intervention developed to promote the reduction and prevention of bullying behavior and victimization problems. The program is based on an ecological model, intervening with a child’s environment on many levels: the individual children who are bullying and being bullied, the families, the teachers and students within the classroom, the school as a whole, and the community. The main arena for the program is the school, and school staff have the primary responsibility for introducing and implementing the program. Schools are provided ongoing support by project staff.

Adult behavior is crucial to the success of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, and to achieve the program’s goals two conditions must be met. First, the adults at school and, to some degree, at home must become aware of the extent of bully–victim problems in the given school. Second, the adults must engage themselves, with some degree of seriousness, in changing the situation. Without adults’ acknowledgment of schools’ existing bully–victim problems and a clear commitment by a majority of the school staff to participate actively in the antibullying efforts, the program is likely to have limited success. These principles have been translated into numerous specific measures, or interventions, that are used at the school, class, and individual levels. The basic interventions at each level include the following:

  • School Level. Core interventions at the school level include administration of the Olweus Bully–Victim Questionnaire to assess the nature and prevalence of bullying at each school, a school conference day/meeting, formation of a Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee, and the development of a coordinated system to supervise students during break periods. The school conference day provides an opportunity for program consultants and school personnel to review results of the survey, discuss elements of the Bullying Prevention Program, and make specific plans for implementing the program during the upcoming school year. Ongoing coordination of the school’s efforts will be guided by the Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee, which may include a school administrator, a teacher representative from each grade, a guidance counselor, a school-based mental health professional, and parent and student representatives. The final core component, increasing teacher supervision of students in locations where bullying occurs most frequently at school, can be implemented after the questionnaire has identified particular “hot spots” within a school, which commonly include the playground, classroom, and lunchroom.
  • Classroom Level. Core program interventions at the classroom level include establishing and enforcing specific rules against bullying, as well as holding regular classroom meetings with students to discuss various aspects of bullying and related antisocial behaviors and adherence to agreed-on classroom rules. Classroom meetings also are used to engage students in a variety of activities (e.g., role playing, writing, small-group discussions), through which they gain a better appreciation of the harm caused by bullying, and learn strategies to combat it. Meetings with parents to foster their active involvement are considered highly desirable components both at the classroom and the school levels.
  • Individual Level. Additional core components of the program involve interventions with individual bullies (or small groups of bullies), victims, and the parents of each to ensure that bullying behaviors cease and that victims receive necessary support to avoid future bullying.


The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program has been evaluated in many locations throughout the world. The U.S. evaluation was conducted in South Carolina, using a quasi-experimental design with fourth through eighth grade students in six school districts. The school districts were organized into three matched pairs based on their geographic location and the demographic characteristics of the students. In each pair, the schools in one district were to receive the intervention, while the schools in the other district served a comparison group for the 1st year of the project. There were 11 intervention schools and 28 control schools during the 1st year. During the 2nd year, seven control schools began the program. Students in the school districts were primarily African-American (46 percent to 95 percent), with the rest of the students white. Three of the school districts implemented the Bullying Prevention Project for 2 years. The other three school districts served as the control group for year 1 and implemented the program in year 2. Students were assessed at baseline (n=6,389), 1 year (n=6,263) later, and 2 years later (n=4,928). Three schools in the comparison groups dropped out of the evaluation by year 2.


The program has been implemented in a variety of cultures (e.g., Bergen, Norway; the southeastern United States; Sheffield, England; and Schleswig–Holstein, Germany) and school contexts (elementary and middle schools). These evaluations have resulted in a substantial reduction in student reports of bullying and victimization, a reduction in general antisocial behavior (e.g., vandalism, fighting, theft, truancy), and significant improvements in the “school climate” of the class—as reflected in students’ reports of improved order and discipline, more positive social relationships, and more positive attitudes toward schoolwork and school.

The U.S. evaluation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program has produced somewhat modest but still positive findings. For example, the U.S. study of middle school students revealed significant decreases in students’ self-reports of bullying in the intervention schools, when compared with control schools. Moreover, the program appeared to slow the natural rate of increase in students’ engagement in several other antisocial behaviors. There were, however, no effects on victimization, bullying of teachers, group delinquency, theft, substance abuse, or attitudes toward bullying. And no program effects were found by year 2.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Lack of guilt and empathy
  • Victimization and exposure to violence


  • Inadequate school climate/Poorly organized and functioning schools/Negative labeling by teachers
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school
  • Truancy/Frequent absences


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers
  • Peer rejection

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • High expectations
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive expectations / Optimism for the future
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • High expectations of students
  • High quality schools / Clear standards and rules
  • Opportunities for prosocial school involvement
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Rewards for prosocial school involvement


  • Good relationships with peers
  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


  • OJJDP: Blueprints
  • SAMHSA: Model Programs
  • NIJ: What Works
  • HHS: Surgeon General


Hanewinkel, Reiner, and Reimer Knaack. 1997. Mobbing: Gewaltprävention in Schule in Schleswig–Holstein. Report. Landesinstitut Schleswig–Holstein fur Praxis und Theorie der Schule.

Melton, Gary B., Susan P. Limber, Phillippe B. Cunningham, D. Wayne Osgood, J. Chambers, V. Flerx, Scott W. Henggeler, and M. Nation. 1998. Violence Among Rural Youth. Final Report to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Olweus, Daniel. 1991. “Bully–Victim Problems Among Schoolchildren: Basic Facts and Effects of a School-Based Intervention Program.” In Debra J. Pepler and Kenneth H. Rubin (eds.). The Development and Treatment of Childhood Aggression. Hillsdale, N.J.: Erlbaum, 411–48.

Olweus, Daniel, Susan P. Limber, and Sharon F. Mihalic. 1999. Blueprints for Violence Prevention, Book 9: Bullying Prevention Program. Boulder, Colo.: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

Whitney, Irene, Ian Rivers, Peter K. Smith, and Sonia Sharp. 1994. “The Sheffield Project: Methodology and Findings.” In Peter K. Smith and Sonia Sharp (eds.). School Bullying: Insights and Perspectives. London, England: Routledge, 20–56.


Marlene Snyder, Ph.D.
Institute of Family and Neighborhood Life
158 Poole Agricultural Center
Clemson University
Clemson, SC 29634
Phone: (864) 710-4562
Fax: (864) 656-6281
Web site: