As many as 30 percent of school-age children are repeatedly teased, threatened, or attacked by their peers. We often think of school violence as fist fighting between high schools boys, but in reality, aggressive behaviors begin to express themselves at a very young age and occur almost as frequently in girls as they do in boys, says Stephen Leff, Ph.D., psychologist at Childrens Hospital and principal investigator of the study. By defining aggression broadly to include both physical aggression and relational aggression (gossiping, threatening to exclude from the peer group), effective aggression prevention programs are better able to target both boys and girls and focus on the everyday acts of aggression that occur on school playgrounds and that can lead to more serious violence in later years.
In an article in the October issue of School Psychology Review, the Childrens Hospital research team reviewed 34 school aggression prevention programs throughout the nation. The five most promising programs were then carefully evaluated on criteria including research design and outcome evaluation. Through this evaluation, researchers were able to identify strengths and limitations of existing programs and to determine best practice for successful aggression prevention programs.
Dr. Leff and his colleagues offer the following suggestions for designing and evaluating successful school-based aggression prevention programs: