School-based violence & bullying prevention programs

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

School-based violence prevention programs address disruptive and antisocial behavior by teaching self-awareness, emotional self-control, self-esteem, social skills, social problem solving, conflict resolution, or team work. Such programs address general violent behavior or specific violence such as dating or bullying violence1. School-based bullying programs may focus on bullies, victims, peers, teachers, or the entire school. Most programs seek to reduce both bullying and victimization (being bullied)2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced violence

  • Reduced victimization

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Reduced bullying

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that school-based violence and bullying prevention programs reduce violence and victimization123, 4, 5. Such programs have also been shown to modestly reduce bullying in some circumstances2, 5.

Overall, whole-school violence prevention programs reduce violence. Programs that offer information about violence, change thought patterns associated with violence, and build social skills have been shown to reduce violence. Such programs are effective for students of various ages, socio-economic status, and ethnicity1; in a few cases, program effects appear greatest among boys and older students4.

Most school-based anti-bullying programs also reduce victimization (being bullied), bullying, and aggressive behavior2, 4. Programs implemented at the classroom level appear more effective than formal school policies against bullying or approaches that focus on specific bullies3, and longer, more intense programs reduce bullying more than less intense programs2. Multi-component interventions6, including a focus on classroom management and rules, better playground supervision, and firm discipline2, as well as incentives for bullies to change their behavior, and focused attention for at-risk youth7 can also increase program effectiveness. Examples of effective anti-bullying programs include Olweus8 and KiVa2.

School-based violence and bullying prevention programs are more likely to succeed with family education components, appropriate adaptations for the social and cultural characteristics of the school population, long program durations, and high levels of parent engagement4, 6. Interventions that teach social and interpersonal skills as well as aim to modify attitudes and beliefs are more effective than those that focus on mitigating responses to provocation4.

Adopting the principles and practices of trauma-informed schools may enhance bullying prevention efforts, and address the social emotional and mental health needs of vulnerable students9.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

As of May 2016, all states and Washington, D.C. have anti-bullying legislation10. Most states have model policies schools can use to reduce bullying. The federal government also offers bullying and violence prevention resources1112.

In 2014, 63% of schools prohibited gang activity, and almost all prohibited bullying, cyber-bullying, physical fighting, and weapon possession or use. Most schools (83%) implemented bullying prevention programs, and 66% of schools provided violence prevention services in one-on-one or small group sessions13.

Implementation Resources

CDC-School violence - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About school violence.

US DHHS-Stop bullying - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. DHHS). Stop bullying.

YG-SVP - (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Safe youth, safe schools: School violence prevention (SPV).

AIR-SSL SCI Resources - American Institutes for Research (AIR). Safe supportive learning (SSL): School climate improvement (SCI) resource package.

AIR-Bullying - American Institutes for Research (AIR). Bullying and violence prevention resources.

AIR-School climate - American Institutes for Research (AIR). School climate and safety.

Olweus - Violence Prevention Works. Home of the Olweus bullying prevention program.

KiVa - KiVa Koulu. There is no bullying in KiVa school!


* Journal subscription may be required for access.

1 CG-Violence - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Violence.

2 Campbell-Farrington 2009 - Farrington DP, Ttofi MM. School-based programs to reduce bullying and victimization. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2009;5(1):i-148.

3 RAND-Wong 2009 - Wong JS. No bullies allowed: Understanding peer victimization, the impacts on delinquency, and the effectiveness of prevention programs. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation; 2009: Dissertation 240.

4 Jimenez Barbero 2012 - Jiménez Barbero JA, Ruiz Hernández JA, Llor Esteban B, Pérez García M. Effectiveness of antibullying school programmes: A systematic review by evidence levels. Children and Youth Services Review. 2012;34(9):1646–1658.

5 Matjasko 2012 - Matjasko JL, Vivolo-Kantor AM, Massetti GM, et al. A systematic meta-review of evaluations of youth violence prevention programs: Common and divergent findings from 25 years of meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Aggression and Violent Behavior. 2012;17(6):540–552.

6 Bradshaw 2015 - Bradshaw CP. Translating research to practice in bullying prevention. American Psychologist. 2015;70(4):322–332.

7 Ferguson 2007 - Ferguson CJ, San Miguel C, Kilburn JC, Sanchez P. The effectiveness of school-based anti-bullying programs: A meta-analytic review. Criminal Justice Review. 2007;32(4):401–414.

8 Blueprints - Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV). Blueprints for healthy youth development.

9 Blitz 2015 - Blitz LV, Lee Y. Trauma-informed methods to enhance school-based bullying prevention initiatives: An emerging model. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. 2015;24(1):20-40.

10 LawAtlas-Anti bullying - LawAtlas. Anti-bullying laws map.

11 US DHHS-Stop bullying - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (U.S. DHHS). Stop bullying.

12 CDC-School violence - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About school violence.

13 CDC-SHPPS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). School health policies and practices study (SHPPS).