KiVa Antibullying Program

Program Goals

The KiVa Antibullying Program is a school-based program delivered to all students in grades One, Four, and Seven. It was designed for national use in the Finnish comprehensive schools. Its goal is to reduce school bullying and victimization. The central aims of the program are to:


  • Raise awareness of the role that a group plays in maintaining bullying
  • Increase empathy toward victims
  • Promote strategies to support the victim and to support children’s self-efficacy to use those strategies
  • Increase children’s skills in coping when they are victimized

Program Components

The program is a whole-school intervention, meaning that it uses a multilayered approach to address individual-, classroom-, and school-level factors. The curriculum consists of 10 lessons that are delivered over 20 hours by classroom teachers. The students engage in discussions, group work, and role-playing exercises. They also watch short films about bullying. Each lesson is constructed around a central theme, and one rule is associated with that theme; after the lesson is delivered, the class adopts that rule as a class rule. At the end of the year, all the rules are combined into a contract, which all students then sign.


A program manual provides guidelines to the teachers on how much time should be devoted to each theme. Schools have the flexibility to decide how to organize the school year around the themes. Manuals and curricula are developmentally targeted, with versions available for grades One–Three, Four–Six, and Seven–Nine.


For primary school children, an antibullying computer game has been developed that students can play during and between the KiVa lessons. For secondary schools students, a virtual learning environment, “KiVa Street,” has been developed; on KiVa Street, students can access information about bullying from a “library,” or they can go to the “movie theater” to watch short films about bullying.


The program actively engages the school and parents. For recess, special vests are given to the playground helpers to enhance their visibility and remind students that the school takes bullying seriously. Materials are also posted around the school that promote antibullying messages. A PowerPoint presentation has been developed that schools can use to introduce the program to school staff and parents, and parents receive a guide that includes information about and advice on dealing with bullying.


In addition to prevention messages, teams are in place to deal with identified bullying cases. The three-person team meets with the classroom teacher to discuss the identified case. Then one- or two-team members meet with the victim (or victims) and the bully in a series of sessions. The manual and training provide guidance on how to conduct these discussions.


Program Theory

The developers of KiVa used social-cognitive theory as a framework for understanding social behavior. They also drew on research that suggests that bullying behavior stems from the pursuit of high status within a peer group and that the maintenance of bullying depends on group behavior. KiVa predicts that changes in group behaviors can reduce bullying by reducing the rewards of bullying.

Intervention ID

10 to 12


Study 1

Data was collected at three time points—in May 2007 (T1), December 2007/January 2008 (T2), and May 2008 (T3). The study reported on the following outcomes.

Self-reported bullying

At T3, Kärnä and colleagues (2011) found that students in KiVa schools experienced significantly lower levels of bullying than students in control schools (odds ratio [OR]=1.22).

Self-reported victimization

At T3, students in KiVa schools had significantly lower levels of self-reported victimization than students in control schools (OR=1.47).

Peer-reported bullying

Kärnä and colleagues (2011) found no significant differences in peer-reported bullying overall, but peer reports for older students in KiVa schools were lower than those for older students in control schools. Age-by-intervention interactions were significant for both T2 and T3 (OR=1.29 overall).

Peer-reported victimization

At T2 and T3, students in KiVa school reported significantly lower levels of peer-reported victimization than students in control schools (OR=1.83).

Secondary Outcomes

At T2, intervention participants reported defending victims more, but by T3, this effect had diminished. At T3, KiVa school students assisted and reinforced the bully less than the control students did. At T2, KiVa schools had more antibullying attitudes and empathy, but these effects had become statistically insignificant by T3. At T3, treatment students reported more self-efficacy for defending and greater well-being at school.

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