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Bullying Girls – Changes after Brief Strategic Family Therapy: A Randomized, Prospective, Controlled Trial with One-Year Follow-Up

Nickel M.a, b,c · Luley J.a · Krawczyk J.b · Nickel C.a · Widermann C.a · Lahmann C.c · Muehlbacher M.b · Forthuber P.a · Kettler C.a · Leiberich P.c · Tritt K.c · Mitterlehner F.a · Kaplan P.b · Pedrosa Gil F.d · Rother W.a · Loew T.c
aClinic for Psychosomatic Medicine, Inntalklinik, Simbach am Inn, Germany; bUniversity Clinic for Psychiatry 1, PMU, Salzburg, Austria; cDepartment of Psychosomatic Medicine, University Clinic, Regensburg, and dPsychosomatic Ambulance, Medicine Clinic, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany Psychother Psychosom 2006;75:47–55 (DOI:10.1159/000089226)


Background: Many girls bully others. They are conspicuous because of their risk-taking behavior, increased anger, problematic interpersonal relationships and poor quality of life. Our aim was to determine the efficacy of brief strategic family therapy (BSFT) for bullying-related behavior, anger reduction, improvement of interpersonal relationships, and improvement of health-related quality of life in girls who bully, and to find out whether their expressive aggression correlates with their distinctive psychological features. Methods: 40 bullying girls were recruited from the general population: 20 were randomly selected for 3 months of BSFT. Follow-up took place 12 months after the therapy had ended. The results of treatment were examined using the Adolescents’ Risk-taking Behavior Scale (ARBS), the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI), the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems (IIP-D), and the SF-36 Health Survey (SF-36). Results: In comparison with the control group (CG) (according to the intent-to-treat principle), bullying behavior in the BSFT group was reduced (BSFT-G from n = 20 to n = 6; CG from n = 20 to n = 18, p = 0.05) and statistically significant changes in all risk-taking behaviors (ARBS), on most STAXI, IIP-D, and SF-36 scales were observed after BSFT. The reduction in expressive aggression (Anger-Out scale of the STAXI) correlated with the reduction on several scales of the ARBS, IIP-D, and SF-36. Follow-up a year later showed relatively stable events. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that bullying girls suffer from psychological and social problems which may be reduced by the use of BSFT. Expressive aggression in girls appears to correlate with several types of risk-taking behavior and interpersonal problems, as well as with health-related quality of life.


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