Professional attention to bullying among school children dates back to th 1960's. Swedish physician Heineman published a book (1966) where he describes bullying as a normal way for children to form groups for friendship, defining their group by excluding someone. Heineman did not see bullying as an aggressive act by someone in particular.

Dan Olweus opposed this position by showing through research and studies of scientific litterature that groups often are formed without the need to exclude someone, and also that some individuals not belonging to any particular group still would bully others. Olweus described the act of bullying as an aggressive act, and did also show that some individuals are more aggressive than others, a quality which seems to be quite persistent, showing up in the same individuals over time and across different situations.

In late 1982, three young boys committed suicide in a small town in Norway. It was revealed that they had all been exposed to bullying. Up untill then, the phenomenon of bullying had not received much public attention. The norwegian government challenged Dan Olweus and some other scientists to study the prevalence of bullying. Some initial reports came out in 1983m and the first version of the Olweus Bullying Prevention program was released after a three year implementation project in the city of Bergen.

Several more studies were undetaken by the Olweus group of researchers in the years that followed. In another large scale study also in the city of Bergen (1997-99) more detailed information was gathered about the students exposed to bullying, what was helpful to get them out of their grim situations, and also what were conditions for good program implementations in the schools.

Since the turn of the century, the basic components of the OBPP have been basically the same, except for additions regarding cyber- and cellphone bullying, and also ammends regarding the organizational aspects of the implementation. The Olweus System for Quality Assurance was added in 2008.