Research and development projects for the well-being of children

Friends uses an interdisciplinary approach, with a combination of research and established practice.

Since 2012, we have worked with Swedish universities and funded research and development projects related to bullying and discrimination. The projects provide us with new knowledge and important insights, which in turn contribute to our continuous development of methods and dissemination of knowledge.

In 2018, we also started our first international research project in partnership with Dublin City University.
Find out about all our research and development projects below.

Illustration av logotypen för Friends och Hjärnfondens projekt Hej Hyper

Hej Hyper

Two to three pupils in each Swedish school class have a neurodevelopmental disorder, a diagnosis such as ADHD, ASD/Asperger’s, Tourette’s and/or a speech impediment. That is why we are launching the HEJ HYPER project. The aim is to raise awareness about neurodevelopmental disorders, reduce stigma and create a better school environment for these children.

Using music and theatre as the inspiration and method, we want to create an enjoyable way of contributing to better understanding and conditions for children with neurodevelopmental disorders. In January 2019, we premièred a hyper musical that will tour schools all around Sweden. The project is aimed at children from ages 6-9, and in addition to the musical, which is free of charge, the schools are offered an accompanying mini-workshop and teaching material. For the pupils, we will build a karaoke app for use at school as well as at home, and a toolbox for school staff and parents will be available at the project website.

If you have any questions about the musical, please contact:
Erika Blix, Project Coordinator, Friends,, +46 (0)70-725 54 16.

Watch the music videos from Hej Hyper

Find out more at

Hej Hyper is supported by Friends and Hjärnfonden. The project is funded by PostkodLotteriet.

Hej kommunen

Friends examine the needs of each school to create a safer environment for all students.

The school’s unique conditions and complexity clearly indicate that the needs of the schools vary, therefore the work is based on each school’s systematic quality work, specific challenges and conditions. We also examine how the needs in the municipality as a whole look. When the needs are clear, we match it against a combination of school-specific and municipal-wide efforts, from preschool to high school. In this way, we learn more about what works when and under what conditions.

The project is based on a combination of school-specific and municipal-level approaches, from pre-school to upper-secondary school.

The unique conditions and complexity of schools clearly indicate that needs vary from school to school, which is why the project bases its approach on the systematic quality improvement, the specific challenges and the conditions of each individual school. It is also crucial for the project to analyse the context, as well as to investigate and analyse specific problems at each school.

“Hej kommunen” is part of Friends’ regular development initiatives where Friends will adapt approaches and produce new material and new forms of training based on the needs we identify together with the municipalities and the schools. Precisely which interventions Friends will implement will vary depending on the needs of each school. Friends and Örebro University will also jointly develop methods for evaluation and analysis that both analyses and evaluates the effects of each specific approach; which preventive measures have an impact on which type of problem, for which type of school and under which conditions?

Friends and Örebro University will also develop evaluation and analysis methods that both analyze the school and evaluate the effect for each specific effort; What efforts have an effect, for what type of school and municipality and under what conditions?

The project was made possible through support from the Hugo Stenbeck Foundation and Svenska Postkodlotteriet.

logotyp för Frinds projekt hej sverige

Hej Sverige

The “Hej Sverige” (Hello Sweden) project conveys the stories of unaccompanied minors through the medium of film, theatre, comic books and teacher’s guides. The aim is to counter negative prejudice at school by providing Swedish pupils and teachers with greater awareness of why children flee their homeland without their family and how the school can contribute to welcoming them.

Over the past few years, many children have sought refuge in Sweden. Many come here alone, without their family. All those children dream of a better future. At the same time, research shows that children born outside Sweden run a considerably greater risk of being bullied and a survey conducted by the National Union of Teachers in Sweden shows that teachers want more support in order for the school to welcome the children in the best way possible.

Training material

Friends and UNHCR have partnered to produce material that can provide children who have sought refuge in Sweden with a good start to their new life. One example of the results achieved by schools that have used the material is a 50% reduction in the number of pupils who have a negative attitude to having a child in their class who has fled to Sweden.

The first round of the project was concluded in 2015, when the play and lecture called “Personnummer XXXX”, written and directed by Shebly Niavarani, was performed in front of 15,000 secondary school pupils in Sweden. The comic book was distributed to 75,000 pupils in year 8.

Thanks to new funding, the comic book, teacher’s guide and film are now available to order again. The material is adapted to teaching in secondary schools and can be downloaded.

Find out more about the project at

Pupils’ experience of bullying and degrading treatment linked to social identity categories

  • Linköping University, the Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning
  • Camilla Forsberg is Head of Research
  • Start 2016

The aim of this project is to examine the pupils’ own experience and descriptions of harassment, discrimination and other forms of degrading treatment that are linked to structural or local power dynamics and norms.

By analysing more than 100,000 responses to Friends’ questionnaires, the study will examine the way in which degrading treatment linked to social identity categories is reflected in the pupils’ descriptions. Through the study we are hoping to reveal how children experience and describe degrading treatment linked to different norms; e.g. sexism, racism, homophobia, lifestyle, class or interests, in order to gain the children’s perspective of how power structures are reflected at school. The project also gives us more knowledge of the relationship between power and inequality and social identity categories such as age, class, ableness, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, etc. in a school context.

Jag är Aviola (I am Aviola) – a play for years 3-6

Thousands of pupils in years 3-6 have already seen the Friends performance “Jag är Aviola”, a play that raises awareness and makes you think about sexual harassment, bullying and the longing for love.

Friends is proud to present the partnership with actor and playwright Henrik Ståhl, who wrote the play, and who was himself subjected to bullying when he was at school.

The idea is that the play will raise issues concerning the child’s own experience and pave the way for discussions about empathy and norms that we can change.

  • The play is performed by one actor and it will be performed on-site at your school.
  • Teaching material that can be integrated into different subjects is also included, which can be used in class after the play. The material is based on the mandate to teach common values in accordance with Lgr 11. The exercises are directly linked to parts of the core content and the skills requirements in the curriculum for Civics, Swedish, Art, English and Modern Languages for years 4-6. This provides pupils with access to knowledge, understanding and personal creativity.

svartvit bild på en tjej som sitter på huk mot en vägg

The cost of bullying

SEK 17.5 billion – that is how much one year of bullying will cost over the subsequent thirty years!

When you talk about bullying, the money is really irrelevant, the highest price is paid in human suffering, by the children being subjected to it. But when our politicians are presented with the financial cost of bullying, it puts more pressure on them to act. That is why Friends has asked the economist Ingvar Nilsson and his team for help. They have produced socio-economic estimates and calculated the cost of bullying for different stakeholders in society – schools, municipalities, county councils and the state – in the short as well as the long term.

The most pertinent conclusions of the study:

  • The bullying that pupils in Sweden are subjected to in one year, will cost society around SEK 17.5 billion over the subsequent 30 years. If you applied that to a municipality with 50,000 inhabitants, the cost would be around SEK 81 million.
  • One year of bullying in a school of around 1,000 pupils will cost society around SEK 14 million over the next 30 years. That money would have been sufficient to pay the annual salaries of 25 members of staff such as counsellors, teachers or nurses.
  • One factor that risks stopping decisions from being made is that there is a time lag before the gains are realized. In a sense, the headmaster will have to budget for the preventive measures, while it will be a social welfare department or county council majority that will benefit from the gains five or twenty years down the line.

Nordic anti-bullying network

In an attempt to increase collaboration and understanding between different stakeholders in the Nordic region, Friends has launched a network for organisations that, in various ways, work to prevent and stop bullying.

Seven organisations and partnerships from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland participate in the network, the purpose of which is to use networking meetings to generate and disseminate knowledge, best practice and research, as well as to initiate partnerships and learning from and with one another.

The first meeting was held in Stockholm in February 2018, the second in Helsinki in November 2018 and the third will be held in Norway in the first half of 2019.

The following organisations/initiatives are part of the network:

  • Friends (Sweden)
  • Mannerheim League of Child Welfare (Finland)
  • Folkhälsan (Finland)
  • The Mary Foundation (Denmark)
  • Save the Children (Denmark)
  • Home and School (Iceland)
  • Partnership against Bullying (Norway)


en tjej och hennes ridlärare i stallet Trygga Ledare

Safe at the stables

The Swedish Equestrian Federation and Friends both work to ensure the safety of children and young people at riding stables and in other places where young people congregate. In 2019, we will be launching a comprehensive partnership to further improve safety in equestrianism.

The Hugo Stenbeck Foundation will be funding a three-year project in which the Swedish Equestrian Federation and Friends will work together to create safe environments and provide youth leaders with the room to grow and remain within equestrianism.

Equestrianism is Sweden’s second largest sport among young people and 65% of the 154,000 members of the federation’s local clubs are under 26 years of age. 500 youth leaders each year receive training within equestrianism.

Sport is an important arena for promoting public health among children and the young, where individuals have an opportunity to grow and learn. For that reason, it is vital to keep these environments safe, and that youth leaders are given the tools to be able to contribute.

The project launches in 2019 and will work actively to create a safe environment, focusing on equal rights and preventive measures against bullying and harassment within equestrianism. Friends will contribute to empowering youth leaders and promoting broader safety measures within one of Sweden’s largest sporting communities.


Sexual harassment and online sexual abuse, and their connection to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN Sustainable Development Goals include goals aimed at eliminating all forms of violence against and exploitation of children (SDG 16.2). The risks and dangers of being in digital and virtual environments fall under this goal, and this project will be examining the prevalence and impact of online sexual harassment and sexual exploitation among young people.

Even if previous research on cyberbullying (and online harassment) has highlighted preventive factors (such as friendship and strong social networks), there is very little available knowledge regarding the actual risk factors associated with being subjected to sexual harassment and sexual exploitation. These negative experiences are extensive and include non-consensually being sent images of a sexual nature, or that personal pictures are disseminated online without consent. Neither has research looked closely at gender in these contexts, or the impact of these events on mental health. For that reason, this project will conduct a large-scale, cross-sectional study in Sweden as well as in Ireland to investigate the extent of online sexual harassment and sexual exploitation of young people, with a particular focus on gender and psychological effects.

Data will be gathered through a partnership between Dublin City University and Friends. With assistance from the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the results will form the basis for new policies and recommendations. The project’s plan and research goals are aligned with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Academics and NGOs that work on behalf of victims of sexual harassment and sexual exploitation will be able to use the results and recommendations from the project.

The research that Friends has already published is a good foundation for a more comprehensive study on online sexual harassment. But we need more research in order to determine how peer pressure, friendships and social networks affect the prevalence of online sexual harassment. Research on sexual exploitation is even less prevalent and for that reason, this project will also raise awareness about harassment and sexual exploitation as a growing concern in terms of the protection of children’s rights. There is currently no established EU process for countering this. The goal of this project is to use the results to influence policy development across several areas as well as interventions used locally to counteract bullying and harassment. Five specific research questions will be answered:

  1. What is the prevalence of sexual exploitation among young people in Ireland and Sweden?
  2. What risk factors (e.g. gender, sexual identity, ethnicity) lead to involvement in sexual harassment and sexual exploitation in Sweden and Ireland.
  3. What impact does online sexual harassment and sexual exploitation have on young people’s mental health, friendships, education and family relationships in Sweden and Ireland?
  4. What current legislation is in place to handle cases of sexual harassment and sexual exploitation internationally and locally in Ireland and Sweden?
  5. What are the most effective strategies internationally for reducing sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and its harmful effects?

This project is a partnership between Dublin City University and Friends. It is funded by the Irish Research Council as well as the CAROLINE Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme.

Interacting with friends in preschool and secondary school

  • Stockholm University, Department of Child and Youth Studies
  • Ann-Christin Cederborg is Head of Research
  • Project period: 2013-2019

This project aims to increase awareness of the interactions between children and young people at school and pre-school. By analysing videos, the research aims to understand how children form alliances, include and exclude one another in peer interactions from the children’s perspective.

The project will increase our knowledge of how children form relationships, hierarchies, inclusion and exclusion mechanisms, as well as increasing our understanding of how degrading situations may arise in a social context. The results will subsequently form the basis for the development of training programmes based on the “everyday” perspectives of children and young people in degrading situations.

The project will present the results from pre-schools concerning the inclusion and exclusion processes that young children use when they want to participate in other children’s play, interaction and participation, as well as the use of success strategies such as helpfulness, friendliness, praise and non-disruptive behaviour for inclusion opportunities. Another part of the project focus on how identities and relationships are created and recreated in activities initiated by the children, as well as how the children position themselves in, or are positioned into, different roles.

The results from secondary schools will focus on pupils’ experiences of the worst thing that could happen during the school day, comparisons between younger and older children’s management of inclusion and exclusion strategies, the importance of the social climate, pupil perspectives, and the importance of forgiveness. One part of the secondary school study will enable us to increase our knowledge of how adults in schools can understand the average school day from a multidimensional pupil perspective. This will hopefully increase our understanding of when and where degrading situations arise in schools.

Within the scope of the project, Friends has been granted the funding to work on the implementation and dissemination of the research results, setting up forums for exchange between researchers and practitioners, as well as developing research-based methods. The project was made possible through support from the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation.

Logga för World Anti Bullying Forum, WABF

World Anti-Bullying Forum 2019

On June 4-6, 2019, Friends, in collaboration with two international partners, will hold the conference, World Anti-Bullying Forum in Dublin, Ireland. The conference, which was first held in Stockholm in 2017, is one of a kind and will be attended by prominent researchers and experts from around the globe.

The aim of the conference is to share knowledge about anti-bullying efforts and, in the long term, counteract the global problem of bullying and discrimination among children and young people. The World Anti-Bullying Forum was a success when it was held in Stockholm and attracted 550 participants from 37 different countries.

So far, more than 300 abstracts from 47 different countries have been submitted to the Dublin conference.

“Our goal with the forum is to increase interaction between different scientific disciplines, as well as to strengthen transition from research to practice. We want to broaden the understanding of how we prevent bullying and discrimination among children and young people”, says Magnus Loftsson, Head of Research and Development at Friends and the Principal Officer for the World Anti-Bullying Forum.

The World Anti-Bullying Forum is a partnership between Friends, the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at Dublin City University in Ireland and the International Bullying Prevention Association in the USA. Some of the prominent presenters and researchers that will attend include Susan Swearer (US), Christina Salmivalli (FI), Dorte Marie Søndergaard (DK), Christian Berger (CH), Kevin Kumashiro (US), Alan Goodboy (US), René Veenstra (NL), Shoko Yoneyama (JP), Michael Kyobe (SA), Eva Romera (SP), Shelley Hymel (CA) and Peter Smith as Plenary Chair (UK).

For more information about the World Anti-Bullying Forum 2019, visit

Degrading treatment, bullying and pupils’ learning

  • Örebro University, School of Law, Psychology and Social Work
  • Björn Johansson, Erik Flygare & Karin Hellfeldt are Heads of Research
  • 2016-2017

This project aimed at investigating how degrading treatment and bullying impact the academic performance of pupils. Previous research indicates that pupils who are exposed to bullying perform worse in school, but also that pupils who have not been directly involved in bullying may suffer adverse effects to their performance, i.e. at schools with a high degree of bullying, pupils seem to perform more poorly compared to pupils in schools with a low degree of bullying.

The results suggest an opportunity to indirectly promote pupils’ academic performance by countering degrading treatment and bullying. In this project, we intended to use a longitudinal design based on data on individuals to investigate how the academic performance of pupils is impacted by degrading treatment and bullying.

The study highlights how the presence of three factors:

  1. Bullying and degrading treatment
  2. Lack of friends
  3. Absenteeism impacts the performance of pupils at school

The factor that has the most adverse impact on grades, out of the three aforementioned factors, is the lack of social relations during breaks. Children who state that they are lonely suffer three times the risk of not getting pass grades that year, compared to children who have someone to socialise with. Thus, lonely children risk losing the opportunity of continuing to study at the next level.

Bullying is also a high risk factor when it comes to not getting pass grades. Among the children who have been subjected to bullying, at some point during the period studied, the risk of not getting a passing grade in one of the core subjects increases by 75 percent. However, the effects of bullying vary between boys and girls. For boys, it is the perpetrators, the bullies themselves, who experience a greater risk of not getting pass grades. For girls, on the other hand, it is the vulnerability that creates the greater risks.

The third area we investigated is absenteeism, truancy. There are clear effects that are evident here as well. More truancy entails a higher risk of not getting pass grades. For girls however, involvement in bullying is a greater risk factor than being absent from school. For boys on the other hand, absenteeism is a greater risk factor than any form of involvement in bullying.

Read the research report in English

innehållet i en alfonslåda som består av böcker, en cd samt arbetsmaterial

Alfie’s box of friendship – a method for involving children in creating a safe school environment

Alfie’s box of friendship is part of the Friends pre-school package, but can also be purchased separately. The box contains method material that lets you involve children in creating a safe environment by using educational play. The aim is to promote a safe pre-school for all children.

The material is focused on strengthening and developing children’s empathy, as well as learning about and processing different subjects linked to friendship. The intention is to give children an opportunity to consider phenomena that are important to them and to express their thoughts. All the material is based on the pre-school curriculum.

Alfie’s box of friendship is suitable for all pre-school ages, as well as the early years of school, with some adaptation by the teachers. The box is produced by Friends in partnership with Bok-Makaren AB, who holds the rights to Alfie Atkins.

Email to purchase Alfie’s box of friendship

Research network meetings

In partnership with Stockholm University, Friends has initiated a research network. The network consists of researchers from several Swedish universities and colleges, who conduct research on bullying, degrading treatment and subjects related thereto.  The purpose of the network is to improve the dissemination of knowledge, within the world of research as well as between researchers and practitioners.

Several network meetings have been arranged, and the focus of these meetings has been to discuss and share experiences in order to better implement and disseminate research results. Some areas that have been highlighted include:

  • Different definitions of bullying
  • How do we conduct research into bullying?
  • Societal consequences of bullying and opportunities for comprehensive approaches
  • How do children and young people understand the term bullying?
  • Implementation and dissemination of research into bullying

Action against cyberbullying

  • Gothenburg University, Department of Psychology
  • The Senior Researchers are Ann Frisén and Sofia Berne.
  • 2015-2016

This project aims to develop and evaluate approaches to reduce degrading treatment online as well as cyberbullying.

The project uses the method of action research and one important aspect is to involve the entire school, where the focus is on involving the pupils in developing preventive methods. Representatives from the Department of Psychology, together with staff from Friends, have worked closely with students as well as staff at the pilot schools to jointly develop methods against bullying. The effects of these methods will be evaluated in relation to the control schools and form the basis for future method development.

As part of the project, Friends and four other organisations from Estonia, Finland and Hungary carried out an international method development project in 2015-2016. The overarching goal of this project was to increase young people’s involvement in preventing harassment, degrading treatment and bullying, and to improve methods for documenting how young people feel, online and offline. The international part of the project was funded by the EU Daphne Programme.

The project was carried out in three pilot schools in greater Gothenburg. The pupils participated in workshops and training courses, and influenced the development of new innovative methods for involving other pupils, school staff and guardians in the preventive efforts to create a safe school environment.

“Med rätt att vara” (The Right to Be) – a project about diversity from Friends & Unga Klara

From 2015-2017, the project offered schools throughout Sweden innovative children’s theatre with educational material. The performances gave rise to conversations, discussions and workshops about how pupils and teachers can achieve the goal of imparting democratic values where equality permeates all activities.

The schools, teachers and pupils could learn preparatory online training in three steps on anti-oppressive pedagogy. They watched the performance and participated in the subsequent workshop and made use of the teacher’s guide in the classroom.

Unga Klara is a world-renowned exploratory theatre focusing on the conditions of children and young people. On the obvious basis that a young audience deserves the same artistic quality as adults, and that the best affirmation of life is to speak truthfully about its complexity, Unga Klara has tried to explore what theatre can be. Unga Klara has tackled difficult subjects, but also more joyous ones, and endeavoured to combine the substantive with the light-weight, researching, questioning and challenging their audience.

“De jag egentligen är” (The people I really am) was the first performance of the project and was aimed at years 3-6 where pupils and teachers participated on the same terms. The show toured Sweden in the autumn of 2015 with 150 performances from Ystad to Kiruna. A critically acclaimed and interactive classroom show about identity and freedom of thought. The performance toys with the idea that we do not have just one dimension, but several. “De jag egentligen är” is about all the different people we can be when we are ourselves. Manuscript: Erik Uddenberg, Direction: Gustav Deinoff.

Forever Alone was the second theatre production of the project, which was performed in 2016 and 2017 to pupils from pre-school to year 3 in collaboration with Regionteatern Blekinge Kronoberg. The colourful performance portrayed the difficulties of being lonely, in both serious and humorous ways. The fear of being excluded and the concerned parent’s approach to a child who will not go out. Manuscript: Elmira Arikan, Direction: Farnaz Arbabi.