The participant role approach represents a view of bullying as a group process in which bystanders often encourage the bullying or silently witness it, while little support is given to the victim (e.g. Salmivalli, Lagerspetz, Björkqvist, Osterman, & Kaukiainen, 1996). There is a discrepancy between students' attitudes (which are often against bullying) and their actual behaviour in bullying situations, and this may be an important factor contributing to the persistence of the problem.
The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of an anti-bullying intervention programme targeting the group as a whole. Class teachers who attended a 1-year training course carried out the interventions in school classes. The present evaluation of the project is based on multi-level modelling, assessing the programme effects after 12 months of intervention, utilizing a cohort longitudinal design with adjacent cohorts (Olweus & Alsaker, 1991) also taking into account the degree of implementation of the programme.
The intervention was implemented in 48 school classes (Grades 4, 5, and 6) from 16 Finnish schools, involving 1,220 children (600 girls and 620 boys).
The present report is based on questionnaire data collected at two assessment points during the project, assessing the frequencies of bullies and victims, the extent of observed and experienced bullying, students' attitudes and efficacy beliefs related to bullying, and their participant role behaviours (self- and peer-reported). Reports were collected from teachers about the concrete actions taken in order to compare the actual content of the intervention to what had been planned.
A positive impact of the intervention programme was found on several outcome variables (e.g. frequencies of bullies and victims, observed and experienced bullying, attitudes and efficacy beliefs, and to some extent, participant role behaviours). The intervention effects were found more often in Grade 4 than in Grade 5, and often only in schools with a high degree of implementation of the programme.