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Olweus Bullying Prevention Program

Date Published: 

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is a multi-level, multi-component school-based program designed to prevent or reduce bullying. Designed to restructure the existing school environment to reduce opportunities and rewards for bullying, this program has also been shown to reduce substance use and delinquency. The program targets students ages 6 to 15 in elementary, middle, and junior high schools. It was originally developed, refined, and systematically evaluated in an intervention project involving 2,500 children in 42 schools in the city of Bergen, Norway, from 1983 through 1985. The Bullying Prevention Program is a systems change program, meant to be implemented and sustained over time. It is not a curriculum nor is it a conflict resolution or mediation program. It takes time to implement, and the results of the program grow stronger over time.

Target Audience: 

The target audience is elementary, middle, and junior high school students ages 6–15. All students participate in most aspects of the program, while students who are identified as bullying others or as targets of bullying receive additional individual intervention.

Special Populations/Available Adaptations: 

This model has been replicated around the world since its inception in Bergen, Norway. There have been several recent program implementations, within Norway and in several other countries, including the United States, Germany, and England.

Program Components: 

Core components of the program are implemented at the school, classroom, and individual levels.

School-level components include:

  • Formation of a Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee
  • Distribution of an anonymous student questionnaire assessing the nature and prevalence of bullying
  • Training for committee members and staff
  • Development of a coordinated system of supervision
  • Adoption of school-wide rules against bullying
  • Development of appropriate positive and negative consequences for students' behavior
  • Holding staff discussion groups related to the program
  • Involvement of parents

Classroom-level components include:

  • Reinforcement of school-wide rules against bullying
  • Holding regular classroom meetings with students to increase knowledge and empathy
  • Informational meetings with parents

Individual-level components include:

  • Interventions with children who bully
  • Interventions with children who are bullied
  • Discussions with parents of involved students

A number of sites are also implementing community-level components, such as convening meetings with community members and incorporating anti-bullying messages, and strategies in youth-related activities in the community (including recreational activities, scouting, and afterschool programs).

Training and Technical Assistance: 

School staff participates in a half-to-one-day training session. Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee members participate in a one-and-one-half day training session with a certified trainer. During implementation, continual all-staff Teacher Discussion Groups and monthly management meetings for the Coordinating Committee are required. Technical assistance is available via follow-up telephone consultations provided to the onsite coordinator every three weeks during the first year of implementation.

Contact Information: 

Marlene Snyder, Ph.D.
Associate Research Professor
Institute on Family & Neighborhood Life
Clemson University
158 Poole Agricultural Center
Clemson, SC 29634
Phone: (864) 710-4562
Web site:

Program and Training Costs: 

In addition to costs associated with compensating an on-site coordinator for the project, the costs (which vary with the size of the site) for program expenses consist of approximately $200 per school to purchase the questionnaire and computer program to assess bullying at the school, plus approximately $65 per teacher to cover costs of classroom materials.

Training for two schools for an on-site trainer is $3,000 for a two-day training of the school’s bullying prevention committees. Training of trainer opportunities are also available

Evaluation Results: 

The first evaluation of the program took place in the early-to-mid 1980s and involved approximately 2,500 children in grades 4–7 from 42 elementary and junior high schools in Bergen, Norway (equivalent to grades 5–8 in the U.S.). Using a quasi-experimental (agecohorts) design, Olweus (1991; Olweus, Limber, & Mihalic, 1999) found:

  • Substantial reductions (50% or more for most comparisons by students’ age and grade) in self-reported bullying and bully victimization.
  • Significant reductions in self-reported vandalism, fighting, theft, alcohol use, and truancy.
  • Significant improvements in the social climate of the classroom (as reflected in students’ reports of increased satisfaction with school life and school work, improved order and discipline at school, and more positive social relationships).
  • A dosage-response relationship at the classroom level - classrooms that implemented essential components of the program saw greater reductions in bully/victim problems.

Since this initial evaluation, numerous additional evaluations have demonstrated positive results. Visit for more information.

Evaluation Components: 

The Bully/Victim Questionnaire (BVQ), a school-level measurement instrument, is key to program implementation. The questionnaire is administered several times throughout the intervention. There are 39 questions that every student answers. Data is collected and entered into the BVQ computer program (a program designed to facilitate BVQ data entry). The questionnaire and data analysis provide useable information about specific school needs The first survey results serve as the benchmark against which schools are encouraged to compare after a year or two of program implementation.

Agency/Institution Recognition: 
  • Blueprints Model Program
  • American Youth Policy Forum Effective Program
  • Center for Mental Health Services- Greenberg et al. Effective Program
  • Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) Model Program
  • Communities That Care- Developmental Research and Programs Effective Program
  • Mihalic & Aultman-Bettridge (2004) Exemplary Program
  • Sherman et al. (1997) Effective Program
  • Surgeon General's Report (2001) Promising 2
  • Title V (OJJDP) Promising Program

Kallestad, J. H. & Olweus, D. (2003). Predicting teachers’ and schools’ implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention program: A multilevel study. Prevention and Treatment, 6(21). Available on-line at

Limber, S. P., Nation, M., & Tracy, A. J. (2004). Implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention programme in the Southeastern United States. In P. K. Smith, D. Pepler, & K. Rigby (Eds.), Bullying in schools: How successful can interventions be? (pp. 55-79). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Melton, G. B., Limber, S. P., Flerx, V., Nation, M., Osgood, W., Chambers, J., Henggeler, S., Cunningham, P., & Olweus, D. (1998). Violence Among Rural Youth. Final Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Olweus, D. (1994). Annotation: Bullying at school: Basic facts & effects of a school-based intervention program. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35, 1171–1190.

Olweus, D. (1995). Bullying or peer abuse at school: Facts and intervention. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4(6), 196-201.

Olweus, D. (1997). Bully/victim problems in school: Facts and intervention. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 12(4), 495-510.

Olweus, D. (2003). A profile of bullying at school. Educational Leadership 60(6), 12–17.

Olweus, D. (2004). The Olweus Bullying Prevention Programme: Design and implementation issues and a new national initiative in Norway. In P. K. Smith, D. Pepler, & K. Rigby (Eds.), Bullying in schools: How successful can interventions be? (pp. 13-36). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Olweus, D., & Limber, S. (1999). Bullying prevention program. In D.S. Elliot, (Ed.), Blueprints for Violence Prevention. Denver, CO: C&M Press.

Smith, P.K., Morita, Y., Junger-Tas., Olweus, D., Catalano, R., & Slee, P. (Eds.). (1999). The nature of school bullying: A cross national perspective. Routledge. London

Solberg, M. E., & Olweus

, D. (2003). Prevalence estimation of school bullying. with the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire. Aggressive Behavior, 29(3), 239–268.

Stevens, V., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., & Van Oost, P. (2001). Anti-bullying interventions at school: Aspects of programme adaptation and critical issues for further programme development.
Health Promotion International, 16(2), 155-167.

Stevens, V., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., & Van Oost, P. (2000). Bullying in Flemish schools: An evaluation of anti-bullying intervention in primary and secondary schools. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70(2), 195-210.

Tobin, T., & Irvin, L. K. (1996). The Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 29–33.

Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, U.S. Department of Education (2003). Bullying Prevention in the School. The Challenge, 11(3). Available on-line at