Category: Child / Adolescent - School-Related Issues
Efficacious bullying intervention programs are challenging to develop because bully perpetrators display a range of cognitive, affective, and intellectual dysfunctions. Given that bullying is social relationship problem, some perpetrators are at greater risk for depression. The Target Bullying Intervention Program (TBIP) uses cognitive-behavioral strategies to help perpetrators challenge their distorted cognitions about bullying. This study examined whether the TBIP reduced cognitive distortions in perpetrators, especially those who are depressed.
Forty participants between the ages of 9-15 years referred for bullying behaviors completed the How I Think Questionnaire (HIT) and Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI) at Time 1. HIT assesses cognitive distortions and behavioral functioning. The CDI assesses depressive symptoms in youth. Following the assessments, participants underwent the TBIP to change cognitive and behavioral patterns behind bullying. About two weeks after the TBIP, participants completed the HIT at Time 2. Paired-samples t-test was used to examine change in total HIT scores from Time 1 to Time 2. Also, repeated measures MANOVA was used to examine changes in HIT subscales. Finally, correlations were used to examine associations between the change in HIT scores and age- and gender-adjusted standard scores on the CDI.
Participants were within a normative range of CDI standard scores (mean=50.2, SD=9.44); however, a wide range of CDI standard scores (scores=37-74) were found. Participants showed a significant decrease in total HIT scores following the TBIP (t(39)=4.34, p < .01). Specifically, all subscales on the HIT showed decreased (Wilks' Λ(7,33)=.55, p < .01): self-centered (F(1,39)=12.21, p < .01), blaming others (F(1,39)=22.59, p < .01), minimizing/mislabeling (F(1,39)=12.60, p < .01), assuming the worst (F(1,39)=12.41, p < .01), opposition-defiance (F(1,39)=10.17, p < .01), physical aggression (F(1,39)=24.84, p < .01), lying (F(1,39)=9.46, p < .01), and stealing (F(1,39)=10.60, p < .01). Interestingly, the larger decrease in total HIT scores was correlated with higher CDI standard score (r=-0.34, p < .05). Particularly, the interpersonal problems subscale was correlated with the change in total HIT scores (r=-.38, p < .05), although this correlation did not survive with a Bonferroni correction.
Overall, data suggest that the TBIP helped bully perpetrators decrease cognitive distortions about bullying. Moreover, perpetrators with high levels of depressive symptoms (particularly within the dimension of interpersonal problems) showed sizable reductions in their cognitive distortions. This suggests that depressed perpetrators are particularly responsive to the TBIP, illuminating the complex relationship between depressive symptoms, bullying behaviors, and treatment response.