An intervention program aimed at reducing drug and alcohol use may be useful for reducing bullying and associated outcomes in adolescents with certain personality traits, according to study results published in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

The study examined the effects of Preventure on bullying, suicidal ideation, and emotional symptoms in adolescents age 12 to 15 enrolled in the Climate and Preventure study in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia. Preventure is a school-based anti-drug and alcohol program that provides brief personality-targeted cognitive behavioral therapy. Investigators compared participants from13 schools who received Preventure (n=1087) with participants from 13 control schools who received health education as usual (n=1103). They assessed outcomes for victims and bullies with a high risk for hopelessness, anxiety sensitivity, impulsiveness, or sensation-seeking behaviors as measured by the Substance Use Risk Profile Scale. High-risk was defined as scoring 1 standard deviation above the school mean on any of the 4 personality traits.

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After analyzing all participants in the sample, Preventure had no significant effects on bullying victimization or perpetration. However, in high-risk victims, there were greater reductions in victimization (95% CI, −0.414 to −0.002; P <.05), suicidal ideation (95% CI, −0.225 to 0.034; P <.01), and emotional symptoms (95% CI, −0.466 to − 0.061; P <.05) in Preventure schools compared with control schools. In high-risk bullies, conduct problems were reduced in Preventure schools compared with control schools (95% CI, −0.554 to −0.030; P <.05), and suicidal ideation was reduced in high-risk female bullies in Preventure schools vs control schools (95% CI, −1.198 to −0.442; P <.001).

The investigators noted there was a much higher percentage of male students in the Preventure schools (80.5%) compared with control schools (34.6%). Future studies could examine the effects of Preventure in larger more diverse samples.

“The current results showed that the high-risk personality traits targeted in Preventure were over-represented among victims and bullies,” the investigators wrote. “Screening for such traits is a potential method for identifying those at risk of experiencing harm as a result of bullying involvement.”

Reference

Kelly EV, Newton NC, Stapinski LA, et al. A novel approach to tackling bullying in schools: personality-targeted intervention for adolescent victims and bullies in Australia [published online April 30, 2019]. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2019.04.010