Bullying-prevention programs have had a poor history of effectiveness, especially over the long term (Swearer et al., 2010). Current intervention programs to reduce bullying, many of which use top-down control and punitive consequences, are not meeting the needs of students in schools (Swearer et al., 2010). Even the “blue ribbon” Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) program has demonstrated mixed results when implemented in American schools (Bauer et al., 2007).
Violence-prevention scholars argue many prevention programs are limited because of their narrow focus (Hamby & Grych, 2013, Kidron & Osher, 2012). Focusing solely on bullying-prevention may decrease a harmful behavior, but it may not increase a prosocial behavior (e.g., helping). Increasing mental health awareness may decrease stigma but may not increase empathy. Focusing on the decrease of substance abuse may only solve the symptom of a larger issue (e.g., suicidal tendencies, depression, social anxiety). Programming should target behavior that harms others (e.g., bullying) with a promotion-focused strategy of recognizing and rewarding positive (prosocial) behavior that benefits others (Colvin et al., 1999) in order to reduce risk factors (e.g., bullying) and promote strengths (e.g., prosocial development). McCarty (2016) assessed whether students perceive aggressing and helping actions as opposite types of interpersonal behavior; these data support the incompatibility principle (e.g., Colvin et al., 1999).
As a result, new programs should aim to reward helping behavior in order to reduce aggressive behavior.