KiVa (Anti-bullying programme) - Combined universal and indicated type of an anti-bullying programme for school children

At a glance

Country of origin

  • Finland

Last reviewed:

Age group
6-10 years
11-14 years
15-18/19 years
Target group
School children aged 7-15
Programme setting(s)

Level(s) of intervention

  • Indicated prevention,
  • Universal prevention

The KiVa programme is a school-wide approach to decrease the incidence and negative effects of bullying on student well-being at school. The programme’s impact is measured through self and peer-rated reports of bullying, victimisation, defending victims, feeling empathy towards victims, bystanders reinforcing bullying behaviour, anxiety, self-esteem, depression, liking school, and academic motivation and performance, among other factors. The programme is based on the idea that how peer bystanders behave when witnessing bullying plays a critical role in perpetuating or ending the incident. As a result, the intervention is designed to modify peer attitudes, perceptions, and understanding of bullying. The programme specifically encourages students to support victimised peers rather than embolden bullying behaviour and, furthermore, provides teachers and parents with information about how to prevent and address the incidence of bullying.

KiVa includes both universal actions to prevent the occurrence of bullying and indicated actions to intervene in individual bullying cases. The programme has three different developmentally appropriate versions for grades 1–3 (7 –9 years of age) (Unit 1), grades 4–6 (10 –12 years of age) (Unit 2), and grades 7–9 (age 13 –15 years) (Unit 3).

The indicated actions implemented in each school are the team of three teachers (or other school personnel), along with classroom teacher, address each case of bullying that is witnessed or revealed.  In addition, the classroom teacher meets with a few prosocial and high-status classmates to encourage the support of the victimised child. The universal actions include 20 hours of student lessons (10 double lessons) given by classroom teachers during school year. The central aims of the lessons are to: (a) raise awareness of the role that the group plays in maintaining bullying, (b) increase empathy toward victims, and (c) promote children’s strategies of supporting the victim and thus their self-efficacy to do so. 


No data

Contact details

Prof. Chistina Salmivalli,
Ph.D, University of Turku, Finland,
Email: eijasal[a]

Overview of results from the European studies

Evidence rating

  • Likely to be beneficial
About Xchange ratings

Studies overview

The programme has been evaluated in randomized controlled trials in Finland, United Kingdom (2020), the Netherlands (2020), and in Italy (2016). Evaluations are underway in Estonia, Greece and UK (Clarkson et al., 2022). The intervention is also implemented in Spain (Lopez-Catalan et al. 2022) and Belgium. The latter two evaluations are not considered in the Xchange rating because of methodological issues.

KiVa was developed and first evaluated in Finland. Subsequently, two thirds of all Finnish comprehensive schools started implementing KiVa IN 2011. For this first evaluation, 78 schools were randomly assigned to intervention and control conditions. The first phase (2007-2008 with 8237 pupils, aged 10-12 years in Grades 4-6 in 78 schools) demonstrated significant reductions in pupil reported bullying and victimisation after one academic year (Kärnä et al., 2011). KiVa was found to significantly reduce (by 17-30% in comparison to control schools) both peer- and self-reported bullying and victimization. The odds of being a victim were about 1.5-1.8 times higher and being a bully 1.2-1.3 times higher for control school’s students than for an intervention school students.

Reductions occurred in all nine forms of bullying examined (including physical, verbal, and cyber-victimisation; Salmivalli, Kärnä, & Poskiparta, 2011). In phase two (2008-2009 with children aged 7-15 years, Grades 1-9) victimisation and bullying reduced by approximately a third for intervention schools. Increased empathy and self-efficacy in supporting and defending victims, and reductions in bully reinforcing behaviour were also reported (Salmivalli & Poskiparta, 2012). Furthermore, anxiety and depression decreased, peer perceptions improved (Williford et al., 2012) and school liking, academic motivation, and performance increased (Salmivalli, Garandeau, & Veenestra, 2012) (Clarkson et al. 2019).

A secondary analysis of this Finnish data (Garandeau et al. 2022) applied multilevel structural equation modelling analyses in pre-test and post-test (1 year later) data in the same sample (n=15,103, 399 control and 462 intervention classrooms from 140 schools). The study showed that KiVa had a positive effect after nine months on affective empathy, but not cognitive empathy, independent of students’ gender, initial levels of empathy, bullying, or popularity, nor of school type or classroom bullying norms.

The age group 10-12 years showed the best result in Finland (Unit 2 lesson curriculum) (Kärnä et al., 2011). Indeed, KiVa’s anti-bullying work has been found to be more challenging in Finnish secondary than in its primary schools (Kärnä et al., 2013).

The Italian RCT (Nocentini & Menesini, 2016) involved 2042 students in grades 4 and 6 (approx. 8 to 11 years old) in 13 randomly assigned school to intervention group (KiVa) and to control group (usual school provision). The study focused on different outcomes, such as bullying, victimisation, pro-bullying attitudes, pro-victim attitudes, and empathy towards victims. Multilevel models showed that KiVa reduced bullying and victimisation and increased pro-victim attitudes and empathy toward the victim in grade 4, with ES = 0.24 to -.40. In grade 6, KiVa reduced bullying, victimisation and pro-bullying attitudes, the effect was smaller, but also significant (d>= 0.20). The study showed that the odds of being a victim were 1.93 times higher for a control group than for intervention group.

The Dutch RCT (Huitsing, 2020) evaluated KiVa and Kiva+ among 4383 students in grades 3 – 4 (aged 8-9) from 98 schools who volunteered to participate in the research. The study collected outcome data at five time points over a period of three years. At the baseline, two-third of the participating schools were randomly assigned to the intervention group (KiVa or KiVa+, with an additional intervention component of network feedback to teachers) and one-third to the control group (waiting list, case as usual). The study showed that self-reported victimisation and bullying reduced more strongly in KiVa-schools compared with control schools, and with stronger effects after two school years of implementation. Moreover, it showed that the odds of being a victim were 1.29 – 1.63 times higher for control group, and the odds of being a bully were 1.19 – 1.66 higher than for KiVa students. There were no significant differences between KiVa and KiVa+.

The British two-arm waitlist control cluster RCT (Axford et al., 2020) involved 3214 students (aged 7-11) in 22 primary schools. The schools were randomly allocated to the intervention group and waitlist control group (usual school provision) with a 1:1 ratio. The outcomes targeted were student-reported victimisation and bullying perpetration, teacher reported child behaviour and emotional well-being, and school absenteeism (administrative reports). There was no statistically significant effect on the primary outcome of child-reported victimisation or on the secondary outcomes. The impact on victimisation was not moderated by gender, age or victimisation status at baseline. The trial found insufficient evidence to conclude that KiVa had an effect on the primary outcome. The programme has been rated as Promising by Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development based on the review of studies conducted worldwide.

Click here to see the reference list of studies

Countries where evaluated

  • Finland,
  • UK,
  • Italy,
  • Netherlands


Protective factor(s) addressed

  • Individual and peers: clear morals and standards of behaviour
  • Individual and peers: Problem solving skills
  • Individual and peers: refusal skills and decision making
  • Individual and peers: skills for social interaction
  • School and work: opportunities for prosocial involvement in education
  • School and work: rewards and disincentives in school

Risk factor(s) addressed

  • Individual and peers: anti-social behaviour
  • Individual and peers: favourable attitudes towards anti-social behaviour
  • No defined risk factors

Outcomes targeted

  • Emotional well-being
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Substance-related behaviours
  • Bullying
  • Other behaviour outcomes

Description of programme

KiVa includes both universal and indicated actions to prevent the occurrence of bullying as well as to intervene in individual bullying cases. The programme has three different developmentally appropriate versions for Grades 1–3, 4–6, and 7–9 (i.e., for 7–9, 10–12, and 13–15 years of age).

Indicated actions. In each school, a team of three teachers (or other school personnel), along with the classroom teacher, address each case of bullying that is witnessed or revealed. Cases are handled through a set of individual and small group discussions with the victims and with the bullies, and systematic follow-up meetings. In addition, the classroom teacher meets with two to four prosocial and high-status classmates, encouraging them to support the victimized child.

Universal actions. The KiVa programme for Grades 4–6 (10 –12 years of age) includes 20 hours of student lessons (10 double lessons) given by classroom teachers during a school year. The central aims of the lessons are to: (a) raise awareness of the role that the group plays in maintaining bullying, (b) increase empathy toward victims, and (c) promote children’s strategies of supporting the victim and thus their self-efficacy to do so. The lessons involve discussion, group work, role-play exercises, and short films about bullying. As the lessons proceed, class rules based on the central themes of the lessons are successively adopted one at a time. A unique feature of KiVa is an antibullying computer game included in the primary school versions of the programme. Students play the game during and between the lessons described earlier. Students acquire new information and test their existing knowledge about bullying, learn new skills to act in appropriate ways in bullying situations, and are encouraged to make use of their knowledge and skills in real-life situations.

KiVa provides prominent symbols such as bright vests for the recess supervisors to enhance their visibility and signal that bullying is taken seriously in the school and posters to remind students and school personnel about the KiVa programme. Parents also receive a guide that includes information about bullying and advice about what parents can do to prevent and reduce the problem.

Support to implement the programme is given to teachers and schools in several ways. In addition to two full days of face-to-face training, networks of school teams are created, consisting of three school teams each. The network members meet three times during the school year with one person from the KiVa project guiding the network.

KiVa naturally shares some features with existing antibullying programmes, such as the Olweus’s bullying prevention programme. Both Olweus and KiVa include actions at the level of individual students, classrooms, and schools, both tackle acute bullying cases through discussions with the students involved, and both suggest developing class rules against bullying. KiVa, however, has at least three features that, when taken together, differentiate it from Olweus and other antibullying programmes. First, KiVa includes a broad and encompassing array of concrete and professionally prepared materials for students, teachers, and parents. Second, KiVa harnesses the powerful learning opportunities provided by the Internet and virtual learning environments. Third, while focusing on the bystanders, or witnesses of bullying, KiVa goes beyond “emphasising the role of bystanders” that is mentioned in the context of several intervention programmes; it also provides ways to enhance empathy, self-efficacy, and efforts to support the victimized peers.

Implementation Experiences

No implementations available.