Steps to Respect®

Program Goals

Steps to Respect® is a research-based, comprehensive bullying prevention program developed for grades 3 through 6 by Committee for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s lives through effective social and emotional learning programs. The program is designed to decrease school bullying problems by 1) increasing staff awareness and responsiveness, 2) fostering socially responsible beliefs, and 3) teaching social–emotional skills to counter bullying and to promote healthy relationships. The program also aims to promote skills (e.g., joining groups, resolving conflict) associated with general social competence. In sum, the program is designed to promote a safe school environment to counter the detrimental social effects of bullying.

Target Population/Eligibility or Target Sites

The program is intended for elementary students in grades 3 through 6, following from the premise that the upper elementary years are a particularly important developmental stage to influence bullying-related skills, beliefs, and behavior.

Program Components

A major aim of the Steps to Respect® program is to counteract children’s negative views regarding their ability to seek help for bullying problems. This critical objective is emphasized throughout the program using three components:

  1. Schoolwide program guide. This component is designed to change the schoolwide environment by intervening at levels beyond the individual child. School administrators and staff establish schoolwide bullying policies and procedures that are designed to encourage discipline that stops problems before they escalate. This allows the entire school to become involved in the effort to reduce bullying behaviors.
  2. Staff training. This component provides training to adults in the school to recognize bullying and respond effectively to children’s reports of bullying behavior. To familiarize staff with all techniques and goals, the staff receive an overview of program goals and key features of program content. Teachers, counselors, and administrators receive additional training in how to coach students involved in bullying episodes.
  3. Classroom curriculum. This component is the core aspect of the program and consists of 11 skill- and literature-based lessons presented over 12 to 14 weeks. There are three grade-based levels of curricula; level 1 is taught at third or fourth grade, level 2 at fourth or fifth grade, and level 3 at fifth or sixth grade. Each lesson is approximately 50 minutes long and applies cognitive–behavioral techniques to promote socially responsible norms and foster social–emotional skills. Specific techniques are used to a) help students identify the various forms of bullying, b) provide a rationale and clear guidelines for socially responsible actions and nonaggressive responses to bullying (that reduce chances of continued victimization), c) train students in assertiveness, empathy, and emotion regulation skills, and d) allow students to practice friendship skills and conflict resolution. Lessons also include techniques to teach children when and how to report bullying to adults.

Key Personnel

This program emphasizes collaboration among the entire school community, including teachers, administrators, and counselors.

Program Theory

Steps to Respect® adopts a socioecological approach to bullying in the school setting, concentrating on the broad-scale impact of social interactions among students on the school environment. Because many children become involved as bystanders to bullying in both helpful and harmful ways, the program emphasizes that all members of a school community must take responsibility for decreasing bullying. Accordingly, the program aims to reduce bullying and negative social interactions by increasing social competence and improving teacher responses to bullying. The program components are intended to promote positive interactions between students and to foster positive norms by creating and reinforcing policies about bullying and respectful behavior. Based on this approach, the program is intended to improve social relationships among students. In theory, improved social relationships will reduce bullying, thus allowing a safe school environment to flourish.

Intervention ID

8 to 12


Study 1

Observed Bullying Behavior

Frey and colleagues (2009) observed that mean levels of bullying were significantly lower in the Steps to Respect® intervention group relative to the control group. There were no changes in bullying from third to
fifth grade in the intervention group, whereas bullying increased within the
control group.

Observed Nonbullying Aggression

Nonbullying aggression in intervention schools showed significant declines, and aggression in both posttest periods was lower than in the pretest period for the group who exhibited this behavior at pretest. Specifically, nonbullying aggression decreased by 20 percent in the first year and by 36.4 percent in the second. By 18 months, significant declines in nonbullying aggression were observed within the treatment group relative to the control group.

Observed Destructive Bystander Behavior

Observed destructive behavior was significantly lower in the intervention group relative to the control group. Behavior declined over time in the treatment group, but remained the same in the control group.

Observed Argumentative Behavior

there were no significant group differences, argumentative interactions
declined over time in the intervention group but remained the same for the
control group.

Observed Victimization Behavior

The mean levels of victimization
were significantly lower in the intervention group relative to the control
group. There were no changes in victimization from third to fifth grade in the
intervention group, whereas victimization increased within the control group.

Observed Agreeable Behavior

There were no observed group differences in agreeable behavior over time.

Self-Reported Direct Aggressive Behavior

There was an increase in self-reported direct aggression at the 18 months’ posttest for the students in the fifth grade in the second year of the intervention, but not in the fourth grade. There were no significant differences between the groups, which both reported increased aggression over time.

Self-Reported Indirect Aggressive Behavior

Students’ reports of indirect aggression increased over time for the intervention group, but there were no significant differences between the groups.

Self-Reported Victimization

Students’ reports of victimization in intervention schools declined across the three time points for the intervention group, but there were no significant differences between the groups.

Study 2

Students Involved in Malicious Gossip

Low and colleagues (2010) found that Steps to Respect® intervention students who gossiped at pretest showed significantly larger declines than their peers in the control group. Additionally, girls were more likely than boys to be involved as gossips, and as targets of gossip. Older students were also more likely to become involved as gossips, or targets, than younger students.

Students who were involved only as targets (20.4 percent) or perpetrators (15.8 percent) were underrepresented compared with students involved in both roles (24.4 percent) or not involved at all (39.3 percent). This pattern was found among boys and girls and among younger and older students.

Study 3

Teacher-Reported Physical Bullying

Brown and colleagues (2011) examining Steps to Respect® found that, although teacher assessments of bullying increased for treatment and control groups, the increase for the treatment group was significantly lower than for the control group.

Teacher-Reported Nonphysical Bullying

No difference was found between intervention and control groups in teacher assessment of nonphysical bullying.

Teacher-Reported Social Competency

Teachers in the treatment group reported little change in social competencies, while teachers in the control group reported declines in social competency, indicating a reduction of 31 percent in the likelihood of physical bullying perpetration in the intervention group relative to the control group.

Student-Reported Bullying Perpetration

No difference was found between intervention and control groups in student assessment of bullying.

Student-Reported Victimization

No difference was found between intervention and control groups in student assessment of victimization.

Student-Reported Bystander Behavior

Compared with students in the control group, treatment students reported significantly greater increases in bystander behavior.

Student-Reported Bullying-Related Problems

No difference was found between intervention and control groups in student assessment of bullying-related problems.

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