Book Reviews Edited By Merryl Bushansky

Book Review: Treating Peer Mistreatment

Reviewed By Hunter McEnroe

Volume 44 Issue 2,

NASP Members: Log in to access this article

As awareness of bullying and violence among American students continues to increase, school systems are an ideal setting in which to focus efforts to alleviate these issues.

YOUTH VOICE PROJECT: Student Insights Into Bullying and Peer Mistreatment

S. Davis & C. L. Nixon
2014, Research Press

Reviewed By Hunter McEnroe

As awareness of bullying and violence among American students continues to increase, school systems are an ideal setting in which to focus efforts to alleviate these issues. Enter the Youth Voice Project: Student Insights Into Bullying and Peer Mistreatment. Authors Stan Davis and Charisse L. Nixon describe their vision for integrating quantitative and qualitative research into a work that illuminates and explores peer mistreatment, an issue affecting students in schools across the county. This book was born out of the Youth Voice Project, an extensive survey of 13,177 students, ages 11–19, from 31 schools. These “voices of youth” are the focus of this book, and their survey responses and stories are used to drive the authors’ larger narrative about a change in social climate needed in order to address peer mistreatment in schools. In this book, the term peer mistreatment is used in place of bullying, based in the belief that such labels are distracting and even harmful.

Data from the Youth Voice Project survey are presented in neatly organized figures and tables along with detailed information on the study rationale, methodology, and ideas for future research. Chapters on Self Actions, Peer Actions, and Adult Actions analyze survey data regarding the actions taken by individuals when faced with peer mistreatment in schools. These chapters explore the prevalence and effectiveness of a variety of actions used in response to peer mistreatment. Accompanying descriptions weave explanation of results with real-life experiences gained from participant responses and interviews. Readers are therefore able to directly compare the actions of professionals and students in their own schools, as well as to determine what methods may provide more effective handling of peer mistreatment.

Youth Voice Project offers a great deal of information and advice for school professionals in addressing peer mistreatment. In particular, the chapter on adult actions investigates which strategies used to combat peer mistreatment made things better or made things worse for surveyed students. Furthermore, analysis of the survey data provides rich details about the types of peer mistreatment that had occurred within participating schools and captures the perceptions of adults and students. According to the authors, collecting data on the specifics of peer mistreatment allows school systems to face reality, and leads to more honest and effective prevention and intervention efforts. In other words, one must know what is going on in order to know what to do about it!

The Youth Voice Project successfully links survey data to important messages about a need for changes in the atmosphere of school systems. Chapters are included which specifically address the importance of social equity and building school climates of connectedness and empathy. Vignettes of participating schools provide the book with personal and unique perspectives on what works (and what doesn't) in combating peer mistreatment and developing positive school climates. The book reads as a blend between a research paper and instructional how-to model, as the authors provide a range of practical strategies on how schools can implement the knowledge from the survey into reality. The authors even included the survey in its entirety, as well as contact information for those interested in making use of the questions. The Youth Voice Project is a must-read for school psychologists, educators, and professionals working in schools who want inspiration and guidance in how to help identify and address issues of peer mistreatment, and more importantly, how to improve the success and well-being of the student youth—our future.

Hunter McEnroe, NCSP, is a school psychologist working in New York, NY