A Novel Approach to Tackling Bullying in Schools: Personality-Targeted Intervention for Adolescent Victims and Bullies in Australia

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2020 Apr;59(4):508-518.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2019.04.010. Epub 2019 Apr 30.


Objective: To examine the secondary effects of a personality-targeted intervention on bullying and harms among adolescent victims and bullies.

Method: Outcomes were examined for victims and bullies in the Climate and Preventure study, Australia. Participants completed self-report measures at baseline and four follow-up assessments (6, 12, 24, and 36 months). Thirteen intervention schools (n = 1,087) received Preventure, a brief personality-targeted cognitive-behavioral therapy intervention for adolescents with high-risk personality types (hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity, impulsivity, sensation seeking). Thirteen control schools (n = 1,103) received health education as usual. Bullying was examined for high-risk victims (n = 143 in Preventure schools versus n = 153 in control schools) and bullies (n = 63 in Preventure schools versus n = 67 in control schools) in the total sample. Harms were examined for high-risk victims (n = 110 in Preventure schools versus n = 87 in control schools) and bullies (n = 50 in Preventure schools versus n = 30 in control schools) in independent schools.

Results: There was no significant intervention effect for bullying victimization or perpetration in the total sample. In the subsample, mixed models showed greater reductions in victimization (b = -0.208, 95% CI -0.4104 to -0.002, p < .05), suicidal ideation (b = -0.130, 95% CI -0.225 to -0.034, p < .01), and emotional symptoms (b = -0.263, 95% CI -0.466 to -0.061, p < .05) among high-risk victims in Preventure versus control schools. Conduct problems (b = -0.292, 95% CI -0.554 to -0.030, p < .05) showed greater reductions among high-risk bullies in Preventure versus control schools, and suicidal ideation showed greater reductions among high-risk female bullies in Preventure versus control schools (b = -0.820, 95% CI -1.198 to -0.442, p < .001).

Conclusion: The findings support targeting personality in bullying prevention.

Clinical trial registration information: The CAP Study: Evaluating a Comprehensive Universal and Targeted Intervention Designed to Prevent Substance Use and Related Harms in Australian Adolescents; http://www.anzctr.org.au/; ACTRN12612000026820.

Keywords: bullying; early intervention; mental health; school-based programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Australia
  • Bullying* / prevention & control
  • Crime Victims*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Personality
  • Schools

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12612000026820