Addressing peer violence: A systemic approach to providing a lasting safe and supportive school environment




Peer violence in schools is a complex and common phenomenon; although it has always been prevalent, it has not always received academic and professional attention. A simplified definition of peer violence is the repeated and prolonged exposure of an individual/pupil to an aggressive or otherwise adverse action by one or more peers. Peer violence usually takes one or more of the following seven forms: verbal violence, exclusion from the peer group, physical violence, false rumours, deprivation of money or damage to property, coercion, and racial or other protected characteristics-based violence. Recent studies have revealed additional forms of peer violence, including sexual and cyber violence and violence against students with special needs, learning difficulties, and other disabilities.

Peer violence depends on, among other factors, the perpetrator and the victim. The victim is stereotypically insecure, shy and introverted; the perpetrator is impulsive, dominant, aggressive, popular, and no stranger to the use of violence. Furthermore, peer violence depends on bystanders and their motivation. The most effective peer violence prevention programmes thus aim to empower witnesses and bystanders to react to and/or prevent violence. As the school environment is not separate from broader social processes, we must understand peer violence beyond interpersonal relationships. Violence and responses to it are embedded in societal perceptions of acceptable or unacceptable, violent or non-violent, punitive or non-punitive, etc. Understanding the characteristics and interplay dynamics of perpetrators, victims, and bystanders of peer violence, as well as the social processes that frame and influence peer violence, is thus a prerequisite for understanding why some children resort to peer violence, how to prevent violence and/or help its victims, and how to encourage perpetrators to desist from violence.

The effects of peer violence are felt by the victim and affect the general well-being of children and staff in the classroom, school, and its surroundings. Violence affects pupils’ academic performance, attention and overall safety. Therefore, continuous improvement of school practices to detect and respond to peer violence in an inclusive way for both the perpetrator and victims is crucial, as it is the only way to rebuild their trust and feelings of safety.

In the NasVIZ project, we developed and tested a systemic approach to addressing school-based peer violence. As part of the project, we produced three manuals outlining possible approaches to tackling peer violence in schools, using the resources available in schools and local communities. This project will extend the model that yielded successful results in our partner primary school and test it in other schools/local authorities. We will further refine our approach to research on peer violence in three ways: (1) we will adapt our methodological measurement tools to the ever-changing forms of peer violence; (2) we will investigate where, how, and why violence occurs in schools; (3) we will be interested in how children, schools, and society react when they witness violence.

The resulting improved systemic mechanism for recording and understanding peer violence will allow for adequate longitudinal monitoring of peer violence. We will use the collected data to adapt existing school strategies to detect violent behaviour in a way that does not stigmatise the perpetrators, protects the victims, and seeks to resolve the conflicts that led to the violence appropriately. Through feedback from staff and pupils on the methods used, we will compile the most effective age- and other-characteristics-specific approaches, which will also consider the severity and prevalence of peer violence in each school.


PERIOD: 1.10.2023 – 30.9.2025

RESEARCH GROUP: Jasmina Arnež, Eva Bertok, Alina Bezlaj, Katja Filipčič, Hana Hawlina, Mojca M. Plesničar, Manja Skočir, Aleš Završnik

FUNDER: Slovenian Research Agency (url:  and Ministry of Education (url:  DODATI LOGOTIPA.

Ključne besede oziroma oznake prispevka:

medvrstniško nasilje, šola, dejavniki tveganja, skupnost, družba, sistemski pristop, longitudinalni pristop

peer violence, school, risk factors, community, society, systemic approach, longitudinal approach


Inštitut za kriminologijo
Poljanski nasip 2
1000 Ljubljana




Copyright © Inštitut za kriminologijo pri Pravni fakulteti v Ljubljani

Pravno obvestilo