Breaking bullying behavior

June 6, 2012

(Edmonton) An educational program designed to rid schools of bullying behaviour directed at students who stutter is proving effective at changing attitudes in the classroom, according to research from the University of Alberta.

The Teasing and Unacceptable Behaviour (TAB) program is taught provincewide to students in grades 3 to 6 to reduce teasing and bullying directed at children with differences—particularly children who stutter. A new study by TAB creator and U of A professor Marilyn Langevin shows the program is getting bullies, victims and bystanders to recognize bullying behaviour and deem it unacceptable.

"Attitudes predict behaviours. If we're going to get behaviour to change, a first-level intervention is changing attitudes in the classroom," said Langevin, acting executive director and director of research at the Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research (ISTAR) in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. "TAB program is one of the building blocks of change."

Previous studies have shown that children who stutter are at three times greater risk of being bullied at school compared with peers who speak fluently. In this study, Langevin and her team surveyed more than 600 students who participated in the TAB program to evaluate its effectiveness at changing attitudes about stuttering.

Children who know someone that stutters—a family member, friend or peer—generally have more positive attitudes toward them, Langevin said. However, it's a different story for those with little frame of reference with stuttering—an unpredictable disorder characterized by repetitions, prolonged sounds or complete blocks that can be accompanied by head jerks, nods and facial grimaces that take some people by surprise, she said.

One of the key findings was that the program had the most impact on students who previously did not know anyone who stutters, eliciting more positive attitudes and raising the likelihood of social interaction. These students were also more likely to resist peer pressure to socially isolate stuttering children.

"It's the children who don't know someone who stutters that generally have more negative attitudes toward kids who . We're very pleased to see this group had the highest change scores since they're the group we wanted to target."

Children surveyed were also more likely to take a dim view of such behaviour after completing the TAB program, and had more knowledge of appropriate ways to respond.

The survey also showed that children who bullied were most resistant to the TAB program itself, compared with victims and "dually involved" students—those who have bullied but have also been bullied. Those results make sense because kids who bully can lose social status if their peers recognize such behaviour is unacceptable, Langevin said.

"It's sort of like getting your hand caught in the cookie jar—who likes that?"

Yet Langevin sees hope in comments from some kids who bully, who indicated that they recognized their behaviour was unacceptable and, in some cases, vowed to change.

"There was a subset of children who bully who were saying, 'I didn't realize I was hurting my friend or my sister,' and there was an indication that they were wanting to change."

And although movies like The King's Speech have helped change attitudes about stuttering among a wider population, real change takes time and repeated effort, Langevin said. That's been one of the driving forces behind ISTAR, which this year marked its 25th anniversary as a global leader in stuttering treatment and research.

"It was the same with drunk driving and smoking cessation—you have to change public perception and attitudes in order to get robust changes that are maintained over a period of time. And you have to keep at it."

Explore further: Research finds bullies and victims three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts by age 11

More information: The study will be published in the July issue of Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools.

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6 comments

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Tom_Hennessy
3 / 5 (2) Jun 06, 2012
Bullying has been around forever. It will always go on. The bullying 'epidemic' is like the Swine flu pandemic which never happened . The media tried to convince us. Some believe the bullying agenda is being pressed because of the refusal of the nation to accept those of the LBGTQ community. The media , are used to express concern about the "bullying" , epidemic. Large amounts of money and time fighting an epidemic which doesn't exist. The nation and people as a whole do not accept the LBGTQ community as normal and are being forced to interact with that in which they do not believe , and as a democracy , the people should be listened to.
PussyCat_Eyes
1 / 5 (1) Jun 06, 2012
I hear that!!
PussyCat_Eyes
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2012
Tom, there are even presumed adults on Phys.org that are in to bullying. I've recently been bullied at least twice by someone in this website who thinks I'm somebody he's after. Perhaps he's a misogynist who can't tell the difference between men and women. LOL
I hope his bullying me doesn't continue.
julianpenrod
not rated yet Jun 11, 2012
Very carefully, they assume bullying to be a superficial manifestation, like how they respond when someone sneezes, rather than an expression of a deeper impetus. Some can be moderately aggressive individuals undergoing frustrations and annoyances, or eminently aggressive individuals who can't control it. Such deep manifestations can be assisted by invoking action at a deep level rather than just giving mawkish talks insipidly discussing the overt issue.
Another issue is brought up that needs mentioning.
The article is declaring the new approach "effective". This brings up an important point no one peddling junk wants mentioned.
Most novel system have good results in the beginning! Many are enthusiastic and, with the latitude given newcomers, the frauds can even fudge numbers a little. But, after the newness wears off and people go back to what's familiar, the "effectiveness" of anything not authentic tends to fade.
oregonjohn
not rated yet Jun 11, 2012
This research is another example of the validity of Allport's Contact Theory showing interaction with others tends to reduce "othering." People tend to respond with primal fear and violence when encountering difference when they have not been exposed to the beauty of diversity. When violence from others or bullying is part of a person's socialization they may be more likely to respond to others aggressively or in preemptive defense. If this post makes one angry they should ask why.
julianpenrod
not rated yet Jun 11, 2012
You can talk all you want about contact reducing "orthering". There are reasons the tenet "familiarity breeds contempt" was accepted for thousands of years. Why are some families so antagonistic? How does bullying start in schools with all the closeness in that setting? With all the contact and the shared culture, why are Muslims depicted as being so hateful even of each other?
Another crucial point, just because a particular exercise produces a certain mental attitude, it's not necessarily a good thing. They often recommend that you concentrate on how things are bad for others rather than pay attention to your own needs, but that doesn't make it right! You have rights, too, and you deserve to answer your own needs, also! Erasing "otherness" can also cause you to completely override acknowledgement of actual societal flaws in the others.

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