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An Evaluation of a Kindness Intervention on Bullying and Related Outcomes

Kaitlyn Marie Mosher, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Bullying is a pervasive social problem with the majority of students at risk for involvement in the bullying dynamic (Ryoo et al., 2015) and associated psychosocial consequences (e.g., Rivers et al., 2009; Swearer & Doll, 2001; Ttofi et al., 2012). Although early intervention is critical to reduce adverse consequences, results for anti- bullying programs have historically been mixed (e.g., Merrell et al., 2008). Research demonstrates peer group norms are one of the most influential factors in maintaining bullying behavior (e.g., Bradshaw, 2015; Hymel & Swearer, 2015) and that this may be overlooked by many anti-bullying programs (Swearer et al., 2009). The purpose of this dissertation was to evaluate a group kindness intervention which modified peer groups of elementary students to promote kindness and prosocial behavior. The intervention was grounded in social identity theory (Tajfel, 1978, 1981) and supported by growing literature demonstrating protective qualities of engaging in kindness. It was hypothesized that modifying group norms would increase individual students’ prosocial values and behaviors and consequently, decrease aggression and related negative outcomes. Data on several psychosocial variables were collected at two time points from 186 students and their teachers in Grades 3-5 who were randomly assigned to intervention and waitlist control groups. Findings indicated several significant differences between target students (i.e., students referred for aggression) and model students (i.e., students referred for kind behaviors). Model students were functioning more adaptively across most variables (e.g., prosocial behaviors, school connection, teacher-student relationship) and were less likely to be involved in aggression and bullying before the intervention, providing further evidence for the risk factors associated with students engaging in aggression. Though the current study was limited by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, results support the effectiveness of the intervention in improving target students’ prosocial behavior as well as highlighted potential preventative effects for model students. Remaining results were mixed related to the impact of the intervention across all domains assessed. Implications for clinical practices as well as study limitations are discussed.

Subject Area

Psychology|Educational psychology|Behavioral psychology

Recommended Citation

Mosher, Kaitlyn Marie, "An Evaluation of a Kindness Intervention on Bullying and Related Outcomes" (2021). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28650868.