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Research: Music Therapy for Bullies & Bullying Victims

Bullying is a serious issue facing youth today. Based on concepts of social learning theory and existing music therapy research with adolescents, Dr. Silverman & Shafer provide suggestions of music therapy interventions for both bullies and victims.


April 21, 2017

Bullying is a growing worldwide problem largely affecting school-aged youth and, to date, there is no music therapy literature specific to bullying. As a result, there is no guidance for applying theoretical frameworks or for developing music therapy interventions for bullies and victims of bullying. After synthesizing the literature and determining the characteristics and behaviors of bullies and victims, the authors applied social learning theory as a framework to conceptualize the behaviors and cognitions of bullies and victims and to design age appropriate music therapy interventions.

 

Based on concepts of social learning theory and existing music therapy research with adolescents, the authors provide suggestions for music therapy interventions for both bullies and victims. It seems that a social learning theory approach to music therapy interventions might represent an appropriate approach to frame treatments for both bullies and the victims of bullying. Prevention and intervention efforts at various age and developmental levels using music therapy may be more engaging, motivating, and effective than prevention and intervention efforts without music. The proposed interventions may be a suitable initiator for music therapists working with school-aged pop.

 

Social learning theory as the conceptual framework to address bullying:

 

Bandura developed social learning theory in the 1960s and asserted that behaviors are produced and maintained by the interaction between a person and his or her environment (Bandura, 1977). In turn, psychological functioning is a result of the “continuous reciprocal interaction of personal and environmental determinants” and “…virtually all learning phenomena resulting from direct experiences occur on a vicarious basis by observing other people’s behavior and its consequences for them” (p. 12).

This model emphasized humans’ capacity for self-directed behavior change (Wilson, 2011) and vicarious learning given the role of cognitive function in behavior. Thus, although social experiences may continuously shape behaviors, people are able to change both their cognitions and behaviors. Bullies and victims of bullying, specifically, are able to learn appropriate social behaviors by changing their thoughts concerning the behaviors.

 

According to Bandura (1977), both vicarious reinforcement and vicarious punishment can affect observers’ behaviors. In school contexts, teachers often enforce rules by rewarding acceptable behaviors and punishing unacceptable behaviors. While this model may be effective with many students for a variety of concepts, it may not be effective in the case of bullying. Providing clear consequences, reinforcing desired behaviors, and expecting inappropriate behaviors to cease may not necessarily extinguish bullying behaviors. Interventions designed to extinguish bullying behaviors may be more effective if negative behaviors are clearly communicated and replacement or alternative behaviors are demonstrated (Olweus, 1993). Jones, Doces, Swearer, and Collier (2013) suggested school personnel implement programs that include classroom curricula to teach students: what bullying is, how to recognize bullying, rules and consequences, bystander strategies, reporting strategies, and opportunities for practicing these skills. By practicing these new skills, teachers can reinforce students’ positive behaviors and begin to change negative behavioral patterns.

 

From an operant perspective, bullies have learned behaviors from someone or somewhere and may even be overlooked as victims of bullying themselves. The bullies’ behaviors have somehow been reinforced thus maintaining the bullying behaviors (Allen, 2010b). As social learning theorists predict that children will often imitate learned behaviors, punishing bullies may lead to additional negative behaviors. Reid, Monsen, and Rivers (2004) reviewed several studies wherein researchers found punitive responses to bullies were not effective in changing behaviors, as punishments tended to reinforce negative behaviors with additional negative behaviors. Thus, it seems that creative and novel programs are required for the prevention and intervention of bullying behaviors.

 

 

 

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By Kayla S. ShaferMichael J. Silverman

Read full article at Researchgate.net 

 

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