Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Monica Swahn, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rodney Lyn, Ph.D.

Abstract

Background

Youth bullying refers to unwanted aggressive behavior(s) deliberately inflicted by a peer or group of peers, intended to cause harm, repeated multiple times or highly likely to be repeated, and characterized by an observed or perceived power imbalance. Bullying in children and adolescents is ubiquitous regardless of developmental level, culture, and national origin. Although prevalence estimates vary and are influenced by distinctions in measurement and definitions, it is generally accepted that bullying comprises a significant problem in schools. Due to its considerable short-term and long-term negative consequences to individuals and society, bullying represents a global public health concern requiring a public health approach. With regard to bullying, the first two stages of the public health approach are well-documented, while the last two stages represent more emerging areas of research. Given the inconclusive efficacy of bullying prevention and intervention programs, it is apparent that these methods are insufficient. Policy approaches to bullying prevention are logical strategies with the potential for substantial impact on bullying behavior.

Purpose, Methods, and Scope

This project was undertaken to provide an in-depth characterization of the status of bullying legislation and policy from an international perspective. An important goal was to identify a “gold standard” for bullying prevention efforts in policy and legislation that could be used as a resource for other nations. The United States served as a reference nation, and was examined along with Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (Scandinavia region), the United Kingdom, and Australia. All countries in Latin America and Europe and the majority of countries in Asia and Africa were reviewed during the preparatory stages of the investigation. English-language searches were conducted using official government websites, scholarly research databases, and general Internet search engines. Search terms primarily consisted of “bullying” combined with “policy/policies” and/or “legislation” and “law(s).” The search process frequently entailed inspection and consideration of website content in addition to materials obtained from key word searches. Inclusion of countries in the final product was dependent on the presence of legislation and/policy, availability of information in English, and originality of content with respect to other selected nations. Reported results are specific to general school bullying, and do not include subtypes of bullying, bullying targeting specific populations, or behaviors related to bullying. Due to the volume of information obtained, results were also prioritized. Only the most relevant information was discussed in detail.

Results

Findings indicated a broad range of antibullying policy and legislation across the countries examined. Of these countries, only the United Kingdom has enacted national legislation related to bullying prevention, and only Australia current has a national antibullying policy. According to the most recent data, 49 out of 50 states in the United States have antibullying legislation (41 of which also have antibullying policies). The eight Australian states and territories reflect considerable diversity in utilization of the national policy and provision of additional regional policies and resources. Comparatively little information was obtained regarding current national approaches to bullying prevention in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

No gold standard was identified among the examined countries. Instead, the existing foundation of evidence regarding recommended components of antibullying programs and policy was consolidated across scholarly, practical, and government sources. A created rubric of integrated policy considerations and components can function as a future proxy for a gold standard.

Discussion

Limitations of this investigation include the reliance on English-language search terms and resources; sampling bias; information availability; inconsistent or inadequate government website content, structure, and organization; and the restricted range of selected countries. Nevertheless, this report enhances the evidence regarding real-world policy approaches for bullying prevention. Future opportunities in research and practice include developing a consensus on model components for antibullying policies and legislation, ascertaining the efficacy of antibullying policies, utilizing interdisciplinary and multi-sectorial collaboration for research and practice, and streamlining the translation of evidence from research to practice.

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