Banding together to combat bullying

Problem requires interdisciplinary approach

- July 23, 2007

Society's views on bullying are changing for the better Ñ "I think we're realizing now that people get hurt," says Dr. John LeBlanc.

Threatening glances in the hallway. Heckles and jeers in the lunchroom. Harassing instant messages on the computer. A black eye in the bathroom.

In his work as a pediatrician, Dr. John LeBlanc regularly comes face to face with kids who are victims of bullying or are engaged in bullying themselves. HeÕs not certain if bullying is on the increase Ñ attempts to statistically measure the behaviour only date back 15 or 20 years Ñ but he does think that societyÕs views on bullying are changing for the better.

ÒI think weÕre realizing now that people get hurt,” says Dr. LeBlanc, who is a professor of pediatrics, psychiatry and community health and epidemiology with Dalhousie and a clinician at the IWK Health Centre. ÒBullying isnÕt just a Ôschool of hard knocksÕ that kids have to go through as they grow up. Both bullies and their victims are more likely to suffer from mental illness, depression and anti-social behaviour as they enter adulthood. Plus, we know that kids learn better in safe and secure environments Ñ itÕs a win-win.”


As the public clamours for schools, governments and community organizations to tackle the problem of bullying, Dr. LeBlanc and other researchers from across the country are banding together to provide the expertise needed. Dr. LeBlanc sits on the executive committee for PREVNet, a national network of researchers, non-governmental organizations and governments working together to promote safe and healthy relationships for all Canadian children and youth.

PREVNetÕs website provides parents, professionals and youth with a number of resources, including online toolkits and background information on bullying. The network has also established working groups across the country targeting specific areas of interest, including social aggression and cyberbullying. PREVNet, which just celebrated its second anniversary, is also striving to become a policy resource that governments can rely on for evidence-based advice.

Encourage healthy relationships

ÒYou canÕt deal with issues like bullying without being interdisciplinary,” Dr. LeBlanc explains. ÒYou need teachers, researchers, community groups, governments and more. ThereÕs not one simple solution to these problems.”

Dr. LeBlanc stresses that combating bullying requires strategies that go beyond targeting the symptom and strike at the larger systematic and interpersonal dynamics that lead to threatening behaviour. ÒOur solutions wonÕt be found in the simple assignment of blame and punishment,” he elaborates. ÒWe need to develop interventions that recognize the wealth of factors at play, focus on changing systems such as schools and encourage healthy relationships in general.”

PREVNet was established through the National Centre of Excellence program, part of the federal governmentÕs Innovation Strategy to foster partnerships between universities, government and industry to develop CanadaÕs economy and improve the quality of life for Canadians. For more information, visit


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