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Program Profile

KiVa Antibullying Program

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Program Description

Program Goals

The KiVa Antibullying Program is a school-based program delivered to all students in grades One, Four, and Seven. It was designed for national use in the Finnish comprehensive schools. Its goal is to reduce school bullying and victimization. The central aims of the program are to:


  • Raise awareness of the role that a group plays in maintaining bullying
  • Increase empathy toward victims
  • Promote strategies to support the victim and to support children’s self-efficacy to use those strategies
  • Increase children’s skills in coping when they are victimized

Program Components

The program is a whole-school intervention, meaning that it uses a multilayered approach to address individual-, classroom-, and school-level factors. The curriculum consists of 10 lessons that are delivered over 20 hours by classroom teachers. The students engage in discussions, group work, and role-playing exercises. They also watch short films about bullying. Each lesson is constructed around a central theme, and one rule is associated with that theme; after the lesson is delivered, the class adopts that rule as a class rule. At the end of the year, all the rules are combined into a contract, which all students then sign.


A program manual provides guidelines to the teachers on how much time should be devoted to each theme. Schools have the flexibility to decide how to organize the school year around the themes. Manuals and curricula are developmentally targeted, with versions available for grades One–Three, Four–Six, and Seven–Nine.


For primary school children, an antibullying computer game has been developed that students can play during and between the KiVa lessons. For secondary schools students, a virtual learning environment, “KiVa Street,” has been developed; on KiVa Street, students can access information about bullying from a “library,” or they can go to the “movie theater” to watch short films about bullying.


The program actively engages the school and parents. For recess, special vests are given to the playground helpers to enhance their visibility and remind students that the school takes bullying seriously. Materials are also posted around the school that promote antibullying messages. A PowerPoint presentation has been developed that schools can use to introduce the program to school staff and parents, and parents receive a guide that includes information about and advice on dealing with bullying.


In addition to prevention messages, teams are in place to deal with identified bullying cases. The three-person team meets with the classroom teacher to discuss the identified case. Then one- or two-team members meet with the victim (or victims) and the bully in a series of sessions. The manual and training provide guidance on how to conduct these discussions.


Program Theory

The developers of KiVa used social-cognitive theory as a framework for understanding social behavior. They also drew on research that suggests that bullying behavior stems from the pursuit of high status within a peer group and that the maintenance of bullying depends on group behavior. KiVa predicts that changes in group behaviors can reduce bullying by reducing the rewards of bullying.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Data was collected at three time points—in May 2007 (T1), December 2007/January 2008 (T2), and May 2008 (T3). The study reported on the following outcomes.

Self-reported bullying
At T3, Kärnä and colleagues (2011) found that students in KiVa schools experienced significantly lower levels of bullying than students in control schools (odds ratio [OR]=1.22).

Self-reported victimization
At T3, students in KiVa schools had significantly lower levels of self-reported victimization than students in control schools (OR=1.47).

Peer-reported bullying
Kärnä and colleagues (2011) found no significant differences in peer-reported bullying overall, but peer reports for older students in KiVa schools were lower than those for older students in control schools. Age-by-intervention interactions were significant for both T2 and T3 (OR=1.29 overall).

Peer-reported victimization
At T2 and T3, students in KiVa school reported significantly lower levels of peer-reported victimization than students in control schools (OR=1.83).

Secondary Outcomes
At T2, intervention participants reported defending victims more, but by T3, this effect had diminished. At T3, KiVa school students assisted and reinforced the bully less than the control students did. At T2, KiVa schools had more antibullying attitudes and empathy, but these effects had become statistically insignificant by T3. At T3, treatment students reported more self-efficacy for defending and greater well-being at school.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Kärnä and colleagues (2011) used a randomized control trial to assess the effectiveness of the KiVa Antibullying Program in reducing school bullying and victimization in grades Four–Six. Seventy-eight Finnish schools participated in the study and were randomly assigned either to the treatment group (39 schools, 4,207 students) or the control group (39 schools, 4,030 students). The sample was evenly divided between boys and girls (50.1 percent girls), and most were most native Finns (only 2.4 percent were immigrants). Data was collected at three time points—in May 2007 (T1), December 2007/January 2008 (T2), and May 2008 (T3)—through Web-based questionnaires. Control and treatment participants did not differ statistically on criterion variables.

Primary outcomes included self-reported and peer-reported bullying and victimization. Secondary outcomes included defending victims, assisting/reinforcing bullies, antibullying attitudes, empathy toward victims, self-efficacy for defending, and student well-being. Self-reported bullying/victimization were measured using the revised Olweus’ Bully/Victim questionnaire. Secondary outcomes were measured using the Participant Role Questionnaire, the Provictim scale (for antibullying attitudes), an empathy scale (to evaluate empathy toward victims), the newly developed Self-Efficacy for Defending Scale, and items developed by the Finnish National Board of Education (for well-being at school).

Analyses were conducted using multilevel techniques to account for effects at individual, classroom, and school levels. While analyses used individual students as the primary basis, error terms were corrected to account for clustering effects of classrooms, and the results were presented in terms of the impact of being in KiVa schools or the control schools. The program design treated the entire school as the “subject,” opting for many programming features that operated on the school climate.
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The KiVa materials and training were provided to Finnish schools free of charge during the first two years of national diffusion (2009 and 2010).
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Implementation Information

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KiVa has developed comprehensive and detailed program manuals, consisting of a general implementation manual and three grade-specific manuals that include the curricula for grades One, Four, and Seven. The KiVa Web site also has resources for virtual training and provides access to Web-based questionnaires, the curricula, and the computer game for students.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Kärnä, Antti, Marinus Voeten, Todd D. Little, Elisa Poskiparta, Anne Kaljonen, and Christina Salmivalli. 2011. “A Large-Scale Evaluation of the KiVa Antibullying Program: Grades 4–6.” Child Development 82(1):311–30.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Kärnä, Antti, Marinus Voeten, Elisa Poskiparta, and Christina Salmivalli. 2010. “Vulnerable Children in Varying Classroom Contexts: Bystanders’ Behaviors Moderate the Effects of Risk Factors on Victimization.” Merrill–Palmer Quarterly 56(3):261–82.

KiVa Koulu Web site. 2011a.

“KiVa Program in a Nutshell.” 2011b.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

School-Based Bullying Prevention Programs
Aim to reduce bullying and victimization (being bullied) in school settings. Some interventions aim to increase positive involvement in the bullying situation from bystanders or witnesses.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Juvenile Problem & At-Risk Behaviors - Bullying
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Victimization - Being Bullied
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Bystander Intervention
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Empathy for the Victim
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Program Snapshot

Age: 10 - 12

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: White

Geography: Rural, Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Classroom Curricula, School/Classroom Environment, Victim Programs, Bullying Prevention/Intervention, Children Exposed to Violence

Targeted Population: Children Exposed to Violence

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Child Exposure to Violence Evidence Based Guide, Model Programs Guide