Violence in schools

Violence among students is a worldwide problem that is subject to intensive research. The main focus lies on bullying, understood as repeated violent behaviors whose purpose is to harm and that lead to a power imbalance between victim and perpetrator. Bullying can be either direct (hitting, kicking) or indirect (spreading rumors, ostracizing). In recent years, cyberbullying – bullying via modern information and communication technologies – has markedly increased. It has represented an independent criminal offense in Austria since 2016. Bullying has negative long-term consequences not only for victims and perpetrators, but also for students who are not directly involved, as they do not learn how to react to violence.

In our research, we analyze the causes of bullying and cyberbullying, with a particular focus on preventing violence in schools. As part of a national strategy on this issue, we developed a prevention program and trained program coaches to support schools in implementing it. The prevention program was intensively evaluated and has been employed in several other countries. Our current studies investigate differences in motives between cyberbullying and classic bullying.


WiSK program for schools to prevent violence and promote social and intercultural competence

  • Direction: Christiane Spiel & Dagmar Strohmeier
  • Project staff: Christoph Burger, Katharina Derndarsky, Petra Gradinger, Christine Hoffmann, Bianca Pollhammer, Marie-Therese Schultes, Eva-Maria Schiller, Elisabeth Stefanek, Takuya Yanagida
  • Funding: Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur (BMUKK)

General Strategy for the Prevention of Violence in Austrian Schools and Kindergartens "Together against Violence"

  • Direction: Christiane Spiel & Dagmar Strohmeier
  • Project staff: Elisabeth Stefanek
  • Funding: Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur (BMUKK)

Sustainability of Violence Prevention in Schools: Development and Testing of a Self-Evaluation Tool

  • Direction: Christiane Spiel & Dagmar Strohmeier
  • Project staff: Julia Klug, Marie-Therese Schultes, Christoph Burger & Anna Exel
  • Funding: Bundesministerium für Unterricht, Kunst und Kultur (BMUKK)

 Selected Publications

Graf, D., Yanagida, T., & Spiel, C. (2019). Through the magnifying glass: Empathy’s differential role in preventing and promoting traditional and cyberbullying. Computers in Human Behavior, 96, 186–195. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2019.02.007

Gradinger, P., Strohmeier, D. & Spiel, C. (2017) Parents' and Teachers' Opinions on Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention. Zeitschrift für Psychologie/ Journal of Psychology, 225 (1), p. 76-84.

Gradinger, P., Yanagida, T., Strohmeier, D., & Spiel, C. (2016). Effectiveness and Sustainability of the ViSC Social Competence Program to Prevent Cyberbullying and Cyber-Victimization: Class and Individual Level Moderators. Aggressive Behavior, 42, 181-193.

Yanagida, T., Strohmeier, D., & Spiel, C. (2016). Dynamic Change of Aggressive Behavior and Victimization Among Adolescents: Effectiveness of the ViSC Program. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 00(00), p.1-15.

Bergsmann, E.M., van de Schoot, R., Schober, B., Finsterwald, M. & Spiel, C. (2013). The effect of classroom structure on verbal and physical aggression among peers: A short-term longitudinal study. Journal of School Psychology, 51, 159-174.

Menesini, E. & Spiel, C. (Eds.). (2012). Cyberbullying: Development, consequences, risk and protective factors [Special Issue], European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 9(2), 163-289.

Spiel, C., Wagner, P. & Strohmeier, D. (2012). Violence Prevention in Austrian Schools: Implementation and Evaluation of a National Strategy. International Journal of Conflict and Violence, 6 (2), 176-186.

Bergsmann, E., Finsterwald, M., Strohmeier, D. & Spiel, C. (2011). Motivation und Selbstreguliertes Lernen in SchülerInnengruppen mit unterschiedlicher Aggressionserfahrung. Zeitschrift für Entwicklungspsychologie und Pädagogische Psychologie, 43 (2), 89-98.

Spiel, C., & Strohmeier, D. (2011). National strategy for violence prevention in the Austrian public school system: Development and implementation. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 35, 412-418.

Stefanek, E., Strohmeier, D., de Schoot, R., & Spiel, C. (2011). Bullying and victimization in ethnically diverse schools: Risk and protective factors on the individual and class level. International Journal of Developmental Science, 5, 1-2, 73-84.

Gradinger, P., Strohmeier, D. & Spiel, C. (2009). Traditional Bullying and Cyberbullying: Identification of Risk Groups for Adjustment Problems. Zeitschrift für Psychologie / Journal of Psychology, 217(4), 205-213.