Kids across B.C. head back to class in September and a new UBC study provides insight on how to reduce the amount of bullying that goes on in school.
Researchers found that teachers and staff can discourage bullying and improve mental health by fostering a sense of belonging among students.
They surveyed over 4,000 Grade 4 students across 164 elementary schools in 10 B.C. public school districts to assess optimism, sense of belonging, experiences with bullying and supportive relationships with adults. Almost half of the kids (those that didn’t change schools) were surveyed again in Grade 7 to see how their mental health had changed over time.
“We chose to study optimism because it reflects positive mental health and has been shown in research to have a protective role in children,”says study lead author and UBC assistant professor Eva Oberle.
Students who felt a sense of belonging in school were more optimistic than students who had experienced bullying. Peer belonging and adult support were linked to how optimistic the children felt.
“The take-home message is that schools need to invest in building healthy social climates,” says Oberle in a news release. “Many schools have anti-bullying campaigns, which is great. But our findings suggest that we also need initiatives that actively promote a healthy, supportive environment.”
She says creating an inclusive atmosphere in schools can be done simply — for example by making a gratitude board where students can post messages thanking others at school.
The study was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine and was funded by the Hampton Fund Research Grant at UBC.