UCL News


New tactics to tackle bystander's role in bullying

26 January 2009


UCL ucl.ac.uk/media/library/bullying" target="_self">UCL press release
  • Professor Peter Fonagy
  • 'Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry'
  • A new psychodynamic approach to bullying in schools has been successfully trialled by UCL and US researchers. CAPSLE (Creating a Peaceful School Learning Environment) is a groundbreaking method focused more on the bystander, including the teacher, than on the bully or the victim. The study, published in the 'Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry' shows that an easily implemented school-wide intervention focusing on empathy and power dynamics can reduce children's experiences of aggression in school and improve classroom behaviour. 

    Professor Peter Fonagy, UCL Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, and lead author of the paper, says: "Bullying has an extensive impact on children's mental health including disruptive and aggressive behaviour, school dropout, substance abuse, depressed mood, anxiety, and social withdrawal. It also undermines educational achievement and disrupts children's abilities to develop social relationships.

    "While school anti-bullying programmes are widely used, there have been few controlled trials of their effectiveness.  CAPSLE is a psychodynamic approach that addresses the co-created relationship between bully, victim, and bystanders, assuming that all members of the school community, including teachers, play a role in bullying. It aims to improve the capacity of all community members to mentalize, that is, to interpret one's own and others' behaviour in terms of mental states (beliefs, wishes, feelings), assuming that greater awareness of other people's feelings will counteract the temptation to bully others. It also teaches people to manage power struggles and issues, both of which are known to damage mentalising."

    To find out more, follow the links at the top of this article.