Critique of the OBPP

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) has been critizised over the years. Let uts try to help you understand the different points of critique.

Critique (1): The OBPP has too strong a forcus on the individual

You will find some background for this critique in our page on scientific Perspectives. The argument is valid - Olweus does have an individualistic perspective - in addition to his group perspective (the classroom or small student group) and the whole school perspective (systemic, organization and community processes). The Olweus model has three equivalent perspectives.

With reference to the overwhelming body of research pointing at great individual stability in aggression and great variation between individuals, it would not be possible to maintain that a program was based on scientific evidence if the individual perspective was left out. The most recent systematic review of consequences of bullying by Farrington and colleagues (2012) also points at the the number of studies which indicates that individual underlying factors (like personality disposition for aggression) play a role in both bullying offending and later anti-social behavior.

Having an individual perspective means that one must take into account that some students are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior than others. School staff should know about this and be able to focus more selectively when observing what goes on between students. Ignoring the person perspective would mean that school staff should regard all students as equally likely to be aggressive and thereby ignore what they know about their students previous behavior. Ignoring the individual perspective would mean that there is nothing to learn from earlier episodes when evaluating an unacceptable incident.

There is of course the danger that school staff will 'look for' aggressive behavior in identified aggressive students, and ignore prosocial behavior when such a student exhibits that. Studies have shown that school staff will see what they are expecting in their students. This danger must be made known to school staff, and specific instructions are given to assist the staff in acknowledging prosocial behavior especially when this actually occurs.

Critique (2): The OBPP is based on old research

This is both true and not true. Olweus has done research on bullying for half a century. Some of the basic knowledge is not new, but research has continued and is still in the making. The research staff connected with the Olweus Group at the RKBU / UNI department of the University of Bergen is publishing articles for the international scientific community, the latest publications are dated 2012.

Critique (3): It is only Olweus and his team who has studied the effects of the OBPP.

Please take a look at our list of literature, there you will find many publications by other scientists who have studied the OBPP. The Olweus program is probably the one anti-bullying program in the world which has been most thoroughly studied by scientists from other research institutions that where it was created. 

Critique (4): The OBPP is too costly and resource demanding for the school

The investments of time and energy from the school staff and faculty are substantial. This also is based on research: Unfortunately there is no shortcut for a school to become good at securing their students and staff a safe working environment. The costs are primarily connected with the time which the staff spends learning the program. Costs for materials and web-resources are moderate. There is no licensing fee for the program once it has been implemented. Using the Olweus Quality Assurance System has a moderate annual cost, covering the audit and certification process. 


Olweus is the most cited scientist when it comes to study of bullying. The Google service for the research community show how many other scientists refer to the work of any one particular scolar. Looking up Dan Olweus in Google Scholar shows us that by august 2012, he had been cited 15 900 times. That is a quite high figure. Try and look up Olweus D - and remember the naming convention for Google Scolar: Put the initial behind the last name, and no punctuation, just Olweus D