Evidence-Based Violence and Bullying Prevention

Submitting Institution

University of Cambridge

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Criminology, Policy and Administration

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Summary of the impact

This impact case study shows how work by members of the Violence Research Centre (VRC, director Professor Manuel Eisner) at the Institute of Criminology has contributed to policy change related to violence prevention in European countries, and the implementation of new violence prevention strategies at the levels of local and national governments. This impact is based on a stream of research by members of the VRC on the causes and the prevention of all manifestations of interpersonal violence, which is dedicated to generating practically useful knowledge.

Underpinning research

Manuel Eisner has been a member of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge since 2000 and he has held the position of Professor since 2009. Over the past 10 years he has built up a specialism in rigorous empirical research that informs policy-makers and practitioners about effective evidence-based violence prevention. In this case study we use four research studies to demonstrate impact:

(1) He is principal investigator of the Zurich Project on the Social Development of Children, an on- going longitudinal study of 1300 children from ages 7 to 15 that is designed to facilitate policy- relevant scientific research. It is combined with the implementation of two universal interventions. While the social skills training had a positive impact, research showed that a well-known parent training programme did not yield the desired effects [Reference 1]. The authors concluded that existing structures of parental education were as effective as the examined new programme and made a number of recommendations on developmental violence prevention [Reference 2].

(2) Based on the wide recognition of this research on developmental prevention [Reference 2] Professor Eisner was commissioned by the Swiss Government to develop a review of knowledge about evidence-based prevention of youth violence, and to make national recommendations on a more effective violence prevention policy. The report was completed at the Institute of Criminology in 2008/9. It comprised 16 recommendations, including the creation of national structures for implementing and monitoring evidence-based violence prevention strategies [Reference 3].

(3) In 2010 Prof Eisner was also commissioned to write the scientific report on the first Swiss National survey on child sexual abuse, which is based on a sample of over 7,000 children aged 15 years [Reference 4]. It was the first nation-wide survey that produced robust epidemiological data on child sexual abuse in Switzerland. The study was conducted to guide national policy on the reduction of child sexual abuse and included policy recommendations. Amongst others it recommended the development of a national plan for action by a national working group consisting of representatives of policy making, practice, and advocacy organisations.

(4) The second member of the VRC in an established position is Dr Maria Ttofi (Postdoctoral fellow then Lecturer from 2009). A major part of Dr Ttofi's work focuses on the effectiveness of bullying prevention programmes. In 2009 she completed, in collaboration with Professor David Farrington, a systematic review and meta-analysis for the Campbell Collaboration, the world-leading network that supports the dissemination of knowledge about what works in education, crime and justice, social welfare and international development. The study evaluated the effectiveness of school- based prevention programmes in reducing bullying perpetration and victimization. It found that school-based anti-bullying programmes are an effective strategy to reduce aggression and that several factors such as the implementation quality and intensity of the programme influence the effectiveness [Reference 5].

References to the research

[Reference 1] Malti, T., Ribeaud, D., & Eisner, M. P. (2011). The Effectiveness of Two Universal Preventive Interventions in Reducing Children's Externalizing Behavior: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 40(5), 677-692.


[Reference 2] Eisner, Manuel, et al. "Frühprävention von Gewalt und Aggression." Ergebnisse des Zürcher Präventions-und Interventionsprojektes an Schulen. (Zürich, Chur, 2007).

[Reference 3] Eisner, M., Ribeaud, D., & Locher, R., Prävention der Jugendgewalt (Bundesamt für Sozialversicherung, Expertenbreicht 5/09), 2009. (Report on Youth Violence to Swiss Federal Council) http://www.bsv.admin.ch/praxis/forschung/publikationen/index.html?lang=de&bereich=4&jahr=2009

[Reference 4] Scientific Report on child sexual abuse http://www.optimusstudy.org/fileadmin/user_upload/documents/Full_Report_Schweiz/Optimus_Study_Final_Report_2012_e.pdf

[Reference 5] Farrington, D. & Ttofi, M. (2009). School-Based Programs to Reduce Bullying and Victimization (Campbell Systematic Reviews, 2009:6 (http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/lib/download/718/)

Evidence of Quality of the Research

Reference [1] was published in a peer-reviewed journal and assessed by anonymous reviewers.

Reference [2] was reviewed by external reviewers.

Reference [3] was reviewed by an expert panel of the Federal Department of Social Security of the Swiss Ministry of the Interior. It has become a standard reference for violence prevention in Switzerland and Germany.

Reference [4] was reviewed by an international advisory board chaired by Professor David Finkelhor, a world-leading expert in the field.

Reference [5] is based on a rigorous research protocol and was reviewed by experts of the Campbell Collaboration. It has received very wide attention in the academic community.

All outputs can be supplied by the University of Cambridge on request.

Details of the impact

The research conducted at the Violence Research Centre has had impact on practical interventions undertaken by public bodies at the local, the national, and the European level. It has also influenced European research strategies.

Locally in Switzerland: The findings of the experimental z-proso study [References 1 and 2] included the recommendation to the municipality of Zurich to introduce the social skills programme PATHS/PFADE on a wider basis. The municipality extended the programme and it is currently used in over 600 classes and nurseries in the city [Source 1]. Recently the Canton of Solothurn has started the introduction of the programme in over 160 classes.

Nationally in Switzerland: On the basis of his expert report in 2009 [Reference 3], the Swiss Government adopted in June 2010, a national plan (2011-15) for evidence-based violence prevention (Source 2, citing Eisner in footnote 3 and in 5 other places). The interim report says that `the principal academic basis for this Programme is the Report Youth and Violence Prevention (Eisner 2009)': Source 3, p. 10 our translation). This plan includes support for implementing interventions, coordination between all levels of public administration, a data-base on evidence based programmes, funding for evaluation studies, national conferences for prevention practitioners, and a practitioner support service [Source 3]. The interim report concludes that `In our view, the Evaluation Project can agree to recommend the philosophy of evidence-based procedure in preventing violence. Apart from assertions by Expert Eisner, this philosophy is as yet not widely disseminated in Switzerland' [Source 3 p. 38].

The impact of the recommendations in Professor Eisner's study on child sexual abuse (Reference 3) was evaluated in an internal report to the funding agency, the Optimus foundation. Impact was evaluated through 20 interviews with representatives of local and national public agencies, child protection networks, and NGOs. Responses suggest impact at several levels: a) The general public `booklet', which summarizes main findings in an approachable way and relates them to prevention strategies was found to be widely used by practitioners [Source 4]. b) The report was found to have been important input for policy initiatives. For example, primarily based on the findings presented in Reference 3 the Swiss Federal Office of Gender Equality developed recommendations for the cantons and municipalities about measures to reduce dating violence amongst adolescents, which have since led to a considerable number of prevention initiatives [Source 5]. c) Finally, respondents in the criminal justice system found the report an important resource for responding to political initiatives.

Influence wider in Europe: The research by Dr Ttofi on bullying prevention, partly funded by the Swedish Crime Prevention Council [Reference 5], has been disseminated through the Campbell Collaboration, the most important organization globally to make social-science research accessible to policy-makers and practitioners. It was met by considerable interest amongst the general public and by policy-makers in several countries. Findings of the study were featured in, amongst others, the Time Magazine, the Boston Globe, the Economist and Svenska Dagbladet [Source 6], In 2010, the authors of Reference 5 were invited to present their findings to Norway's Ministry of Education and Research, which produced a policy report based on the findings [Source 7]. Reference 5 also was a crucial resource for the National Action Plan on Bullying of the Republic of Ireland [Source 8, pp. 76-7].

Influence on European research: The studies conducted by Professor Eisner [References 1,2,3] had impact on research at the European level. In 2010, he was commissioned by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the Jacobs Foundation to develop a strategic workshop on `Evidence-based developmental prevention of violence and bullying: European Strategies'. The conference resulted in the ESF adopting a foresight Science Position Paper for a Science-Based European Violence Prevention policy [Source 9]. The position paper, which is the considered view of the ESF social science committee, has been disseminated widely amongst European public health and criminal justice institutions; it includes nine recommendations for improving the effectiveness of research supported violence-prevention.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Source 1: List of Schools involved in PFADE: http://www.gewaltprävention-an-schulen.ch/PFADE-Schulen_und_Partner.html

Source 2: Bundesamt für Sozialversicherungen, Gesamtschweizerisches Präventionsprogramm Jugend und Gewalt. June 2010: http://www.news.admin.ch/NSBSubscriber/message/attachments/19465.pdf

Source 3: Bundesamt für Sozialversicherung, Programm Jugend und Gewalt, Zwischenevaluation, Zürich 2013: http://www.jugendundgewalt.ch/de.html

Source 4: Conny Schmid, Sexual Assault on Children and Adolescents: Forms, Extent, and Circumstances (Optimus Foundation Study, 2012): http://www.optimusstudy.org/fileadmin/user_upload/documents/Booklet_Schweiz/Optimus_Study_ Booklet_2012_e.pdf

Source 5: Federal Office for Gender Equality FOGE, action plan on domestic violence: http://www.ebg.admin.ch/dokumentation/00012/00442/index.html?lang=de

Source 6: For links to newspaper clippings see: http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/news_/reduction_bullying_schools.php

Source 7: Campbell Collaboration report on visit to Ministry of Justice in Norway, 2010: http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/news_/Invited_by_Norway_s_Ministry_of_Education.php

Source 8: Working Group, Irish Ministry of Education & Skills, Action Plan on Bullying (2013): http://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Education-Reports/Action-Plan-On-Bullying-2013.pdf

Source 9: European Science Foundation Position paper on "The Future of Evidence-based Bullying and Violence Prevention in Childhood and Adolescence": http://www.esf.org/publications/science-position-papers.html