The summary below presents the research evidence on behaviour interventions in the Australasian context.
The Teaching & Learning Toolkit focuses on impact; it presents an estimate of the average impact of behaviour interventions on learning progress, based on the synthesis of a large number of quantitative studies from around the world.
This page offers a summary and analysis of individual Australasian studies on behaviour interventions. In contrast to the Toolkit it includes studies which do not estimate impact, but instead investigate the implementation of interventions and how they are perceived by school leaders, teachers and students. This information is valuable for school leaders and teachers interested in finding out more about particular examples of behaviour interventions that have been delivered in Australia and New Zealand.
Melbourne Graduate School of Education generated this summary and it is current for June 2016.
Summary of Australasian Research
Behaviour interventions seek to improve achievement by reducing challenging behaviour, including aggression, violence, bullying, substance abuse and general anti-social activities.
The majority of studies reviewed were evaluations of anti-bullying interventions and their effectiveness. While published, post-2008 studies based in an Australasian context are yet to examine the impact of behaviour interventions on student achievement, these studies do examine the impact of such interventions on students’ behaviour and/or wellbeing. The majority of these studies focus on bullying and the effectiveness of interventions to reduce bullying. Some studies focus on interventions that seek to reduce problematic child behaviour by involving parents – an important factor in helping children with behavioural problems.
A systematic review by Farrington & Ttofi (2009), which included Australian and New Zealand studies, found that school-based, anti-bullying programs are effective in reducing bullying (by 20-23 per cent) and victimisation (by 17-20 per cent). Another systematic review of school-based programs aimed at reducing violence showed beneficial effects on the overall social environment of schools (Jiménez-Barbero, Ruiz-Hernández, Lior-Esteban & Perez-García, 2012). In contrast, a meta-analysis of 14 anti-bullying school programs from seven different countries (n=30,934 adolescents, aged 7-16 years), which included two Australian studies, found no significant effects, with the exception of ‘Change in School Climate’ (d=0.24) (Jiménez-Barbero, Ruiz-Hernández, Lior-Zaragoza, Perez- García & Lior-Esteban, 2016)
Results from the Friendly Schools intervention showed that students in the intervention group were significantly less likely to report being bullied than the control group; intervention group students were also 1.5 times less likely to report seeing another students being bullied (Cross, Monks, Hall, Shaw, Pintabona, Erceg & Lester, 2011). A study of another school-wide intervention indicated that students from schools practising Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) were better in five variables: behavioural management input (β=0.32); positive behaviours (β=0.09); knowledge about behaviours (β=0.13); effort goal orientation (β=0.13); and value of schooling (β=0.11) (Yeung, Barker, Tracey & Mooney, 2013). Gender effects were small, favouring girls, suggesting that such programs might be more effective for girls (Yeung et al., 2013).
A randomised control trial (Berry & Hunt, 2009) conducted for anxious adolescent boys being bullied at school tested the efficacy of a cognitive behavioural group intervention program. Intervention participants (n=22) reported a reduction in their bullying experiences (F= 26.52, p<0.001), anxiety (F= 32.88, p<0.001) and depression (F= 13.88, p<0.001).
A New Zealand-based study examined the cause of bullying and behavioural problems (Raskauskas, Gregory, Harvey, Rifshana & Evans, 2010). Self-reported data indicated that involvement in bullying is related to empathy and classroom climate, with perpetrators and victims having the lowest connection to school and the poorest relationships with their teachers. Another study highlighted that behavioural issues amongst students in Australia can occur at an early stage (Swit & McMaugh, 2012). The study of 60 preschool children showed that that 38 per cent (n=23) and 20 per cent (n=12) of participants engaged in average levels and high levels of relational aggression respectively, while 70 per cent (n=42) and 25 per cent (n=15) of participants engaged in average and high levels of prosocial behaviours respectively.
Rigby (2011) discussed methods of intervention for bullying, and these include a disciplinary approach, strengthening the victim, mediation, restorative practice, the support group method, and the method of shared concern. Although evidence on the effectiveness of each approach is sparse, there are indications that under certain conditions, each can be successfully applied.
Berry, K., & Hunt, C. J. (2009). Evaluation of an Intervention Program for Anxious Adolescent Boys Who Are Bullied at School. Journal of Adolescent Health, 45(4), 376-382.
Cross, D., Epstein, M., Hearn, L., Slee, P., Shaw, T., & Monks, H. (2011). National Safe Schools Framework: Policy and Practice to Reduce Bullying in Australian Schools. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 35(5), 398-404.
Cross, D., Monks, H., Hall, M., Shaw, T., Pintabona, Y., Erceg, E., & Lester, L. (2011). Three‐year results of the Friendly Schools whole‐of‐school intervention on children’s bullying behaviour. British Education Research Journal, 37(1), 105-129.
Dittman, C. K., Farruggia, S. P., Keown, L. J., & Sanders, M. R. (2016). Dealing with Disobedience: An Evaluation of a Brief Parenting Intervention for Young Children Showing Noncompliant Behavior Problems. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 47(1), 102-112.
Farrington, D. P., & Ttofi, M. M. (2009). School-based programs to reduce bullying and victimization, Campbell Systematic Reviews. Oslo, Norway: Campbell Collaboration.
Jiménez-Barbero, J. A., Ruiz-Hernández, J. A., Lior-Esteban, B., & Perez- García, M. (2012). Effectiveness of anti-bullying school programmes: A systematic review by evidence levels. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(9), 1646-1658.
Jiménez-Barbero, J. A., Ruiz-Hernández, J. A., Lior-Zaragoza, L., Perez- García, M., & Lior-Esteban, B. (2016). Effectiveness of anti-bullying school programs: A meta-analysis. Children and Youth Services Review, 61, 165-175.
Raskauskas, J. L., Gregory, J., Harvey, S. T., Rifshana, F., & Evans, I. M. (2010). Bullying among Primary School Children in New Zealand: Relationships with Prosocial Behaviour and Classroom Climate. Educational Research, 52(1), 1-13.
Rigby, K. (2011). What can schools do about cases of bullying? Pastoral Care in Education, 29(4), 273-285.
Swit, C., & McMaugh, A. (2012). Relational aggression and prosocial behaviours in Australian preschool children. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 37(3), 30.
Yeung, A. S., Barker, K., Tracey, D., & Mooney, M. (2013). School-wide positive behavior for learning: Effects of dual focus on boys’ and girls’ behavior and motivation for learning. International Journal of Education Research, 62, 1-10.
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Anti-social interventions; social skills interventions; anti-bullying interventions; juvenile delinquency; behaviour intervention; Australia; New Zealand.