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30 July 2014

Parents can play key role in protecting kids from school bullies

A new study shows that protecting children from bullying and associated emotional problems is more successful when appropriate parenting strategies are used in addition to school-based strategies.

The findings, to be published in the journal Behavior Therapy, show that parents can actively help their children reduce both the incidence and impact of bullying.


The study was a randomised control trial of Resilience Triple P, a variant of Triple P that is designed to foster   children’s emotional and social skills in peer interactions. It was undertaken by the University of Queensland’s Parenting and Family Support Centre.


A total of 111 families of primary school children with a history of being bullied at school participated in the study. Study co-author, Dr Karyn Healy, says program participants reported that after participating in Resilience Triple P, the children were bullied less and were much less emotionally distressed.


"Parents want to help – but some things parents do instinctively to help their child may make matters worse,’’ Dr Healy says. She adds that while many schools do a good job of managing student behavior, current efforts to prevent bullying and aggression usually focus on stopping perpetrators. Dr Healy says more support is needed for children who experience emotional and peer problems rather than behavior problems, including those who are victims of peer aggression. 


The new program, currently only available through the University of Queensland's Parenting and Family Support Centre (PFSC), teaches children social and emotional coping skills and gives parents skills to support their children and work with schools to address problems.  It encourages families to do what they can to improve their child’s victimisation rather than having to wait for the school to solve the problem.


Parenting and Family Support Centre Director and Triple P founder Professor Matt Sanders says the study has broken new ground in Australia and internationally as it is the first published controlled trial of a family intervention for children who are bullied at school:  “The next step is to investigate how to make it more widely available to the community, because the potential for improved outcomes for young people’s mental health will be considerable”.


More information about the program can be found on the University of Queensland website here: