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Persistent bullying cases: towards tailored intervention approaches to maximize efficiency

Project description

Getting to the bottom of bullying

Bullying in school is pervasive, and takes several forms: verbal, physical, and indirect (e.g. exclusion from social groups). When persistent, bullying is one of the worst experiences children can face. Numerous attempts and actions to prevent this kind of aggression at schools have not always been successful. This is mainly due to the lack of research and understanding of the deeper roots of the phenomenon in each case. The EU-funded CHALLENGE project will carry out research involving longitudinal studies, experimental configurations and utilisation of molecular genetics to explain persistent bullying cases and understand the reasons for unsuccessful interventions. This will allow the creation of innovative operational models for effective, tailored interventions in diverse cases of persistent bullying.


Bullying in schools is widespread, with adverse effects on youth and high costs for societies. Research on bullying prevention has so far focused on average effects of anti-bullying programs and mainly concerned universal, preventive measures. While important, this has overshadowed attempts to uncover how exactly school personnel intervene in particular bullying cases and when and why that fails. CHALLENGE will open up new research horizons by shifting the focus from average program effects to the characteristics and conditions of youth who remain victimized or continue bullying despite targeted interventions. The next big questions in the field are tackled in four work packages:
WP1 uncovers the key features of persistent bullying, such as the extent to which it is due to school-level factors or rather varies across bullying cases (within schools).
WP2 elucidates the plight of persistent victims by testing why victimized youth are most maladjusted in contexts where the overall level of victimization is decreasing (healthy context paradox, Garandeau & Salmivalli, 2019).
WP3 tests the efficacy of different targeted interventions in real-life conditions, uncovering challenge factors that increase the risk of a bullying case remaining unresolved. Moreover, it tests how youth characteristics affect their cognitive, emotional and motivational responses to different interventions.
WP4 utilizes molecular genetics to test genetic susceptibility to intervention effects at the individual level.
CHALLENGE uses quantitative, qualitative, and DNA analyses, combines longitudinal and experimental designs, and harnesses novel tools to collect real-time intervention data and to register children’s responses to interventions. It bridges the perspectives of developmental and social psychology, child psychiatry, and genetics, builds theory on persistent bullying and enables the development of tailored measures for specific target groups where available interventions have failed

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 424 001,00
20014 Turku

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Manner-Suomi Etelä-Suomi Varsinais-Suomi
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 2 424 001,00

Beneficiaries (1)