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Participant Roles in Bullying: How Can Peer Bystanders Be Utilized in Interventions?



This article provides a view of school bullying as a group phenomenon and practical implications stemming from this approach. The motivation for bullying perpetration often relates to one's social standing in the group. Peer bystanders are typically present when bullying takes place, often providing the perpetrators with social rewards. The more such rewards (e.g., laughing, cheering) are present and the less the victimized children are supported and defended, the more likely bullying is maintained in a classroom or a peer group. However, bystanders are not necessarily aware of the consequences of their responses when witnessing bullying, and they may not know how to support and defend vulnerable peers. In interventions aiming to reduce bullying, peer bystanders' awareness of their own role, their empathy toward victimized youth, as well as their self-efficacy related to defending those youth should be enhanced. Intervention evaluations have shown that changing bystander responses to bullying is a fruitful way to reduce bullying and victimization.
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Participant Roles in Bullying: How
Can Peer Bystanders Be Utilized in
Christina Salmivallia
a University of Turku, Finland.
Accepted author version posted online: 31 Jul 2014.Published
online: 15 Oct 2014.
To cite this article: Christina Salmivalli (2014) Participant Roles in Bullying: How Can
Peer Bystanders Be Utilized in Interventions?, Theory Into Practice, 53:4, 286-292, DOI:
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Theory Into Practice, 53:286–292, 2014
Copyright © The College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University
ISSN: 0040-5841 print/1543-0421 online
DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2014.947222
Christina Salmivalli
Participant Roles in Bullying:
How Can Peer Bystanders Be
Utilized in Interventions?
This article provides a view of school bullying as
a group phenomenon and practical implications
stemming from this approach. The motivation
for bullying perpetration often relates to one’s
social standing in the group. Peer bystanders are
typically present when bullying takes place, often
providing the perpetrators with social rewards.
The more such rewards (e.g., laughing, cheering)
are present and the less the victimized children
are supported and defended, the more likely
bullying is maintained in a classroom or a peer
group. However, bystanders are not necessarily
aware of the consequences of their responses
when witnessing bullying, and they may not know
how to support and defend vulnerable peers.
In interventions aiming to reduce bullying, peer
bystanders’ awareness of their own role, their
empathy toward victimized youth, as well as their
self-efficacy related to defending those youth
should be enhanced. Intervention evaluations
have shown that changing bystander responses
to bullying is a fruitful way to reduce bullying
and victimization.
How (and Why) Do Bystanders
Reward Bullying?
me feel good.” The title of an article
by Sutton and colleagues (Sutton, Smith, &
Christina Salmivalli is a professor at the University of
Turku, Finland.
Correspondence should be addressed to Professor
Christina Salmivalli, University of Turku, Psykologian
Iaitos, 20014 Turun Yliopisto, Turku, Finland. E-mail:
Swettenham, 2001) captures something essential
about the recent view of bullying: It has a
function for the perpetrator. Bullying is a highly
prevalent phenomenon which often persists over
long periods of time, because “it works”; in other
words, it helps the perpetrator get something that
he or she wants.
To prevent and tackle bullying, one must un-
derstand what a child or an adolescent acquires,
or attempts to acquire, by bullying others. Al-
though the perpetrators of bullying are not all the
same (Peeters, Cillessen, & Scholte, 2010), for
many of them bullying seems to be motivated by
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Salmivalli Participant Roles in Bullying
the pursuit of visibility, power, and a high status
in the peer group (Houghton, Nathan, & Tay-
lor, 2012; Salmivalli, 2010; Sijtsema, Veenstra,
Lindenberg, & Salmivalli, 2009; Veenstra et al.,
2007). For that reason, bullies need bystanders,
or spectators. They do not want to attack their
target in a situation where there are no witnesses
around. Rather, they choose a time and place
where other peers (but no adults) are present:
in its very core, bullying is about public abuse
and ridicule of another person. Observational
studies in school playgrounds confirm that this
is the case: in most bullying situations, there is
a group of peers present (Hawkins, Pepler, &
Craig, 2001).
Rather than intervening on behalf of the
victimized peer, many bystanders reinforce the
bully’s behaviors by verbal or nonverbal cues
that are socially rewarding as they signal that
bullying is acceptable, or even funny and enter-
taining (Salmivalli, 2010; Salmivalli, Lagerspetz,
Björkqvist, Österman, & Kaukiainen, 1996). For
instance, bystanders may be laughing or cheer-
ing when the bullying is taking place. Mak-
ing others laugh is already rewarding for the
child doing the bullying, and such a response
from peers is likely to prolong the bullying
episode. Other bystanders are even more active
and assist the bully by catching the targeted
child, or by preventing him or her from es-
caping during episodes of physical aggression
or other types of humiliation. Other peers may
just silently witness what is happening, without
acknowledging that the bully might interpret such
behavior as an approval of his or her mean
acts. Luckily, some children support the victim
or try to make others stop bullying. Within
the research line that started in the 1990s, the
different ways of responding while witnessing
bullying have been labelled participant roles:
reinforcer (of the bully), assistant (of the bully),
outsider, and defender (of the victim; Salmivalli
et al., 1996; Sutton & Smith, 1999). Later on,
outsiders have also been called silent approvers
of bullying; this captures better the idea that they
are not completely noninvolved either but might,
through their inaction, be involved in maintaining
How come bystanders reward bullying, even if
antibullying attitudes are common among school-
aged children and youth (e.g., Rigby & Slee,
1991; Salmivalli & Voeten, 2004)—why aren’t
such attitudes expressed in public? First, although
it might be difficult (or unpleasant) to believe,
youth who bully others are often perceived as
popular by their classmates, especially during
adolescence (e.g., Caravita, DiBlasio, & Salmi-
valli, 2009; Peeters et al., 2010). Longitudinally,
youth who engage in aggressive behavior be-
come increasingly popular over time (Cillessen
& Borch, 2006). In a study by Juvonen, Graham,
and Schuster (2003), bullies were perceived as
cool and those who continued their bullying
behavior from fall to spring even became more
cool over the course of the school year. That
is probably one reason why bystanders are not
eager to intervene on behalf of the victim: They
may be worried about their own status in the
group, or about the possibility of ending up the
next victims themselves.
The second mechanism that prevents people
from expressing antibullying attitudes in public
has been referred to as “pluralistic ignorance”
(Juvonen & Galvan, 2008, pp. 233–234). When
no one challenges the behavior of the bullies,
students come to (falsely) perceive each other
as approving of it. As a consequence, each
individual member of the group might believe
that “although I don’t personally like bullying,
everyone else seems to think it is okay.” Such
a misperception of peer group norms further
prevents students from intervening.
Finally, the perpetrators of bullying are typ-
ically selective in their aggression. By choos-
ing targets who are submissive and insecure
(Schwartz et al., 1998), or in a low-power po-
sition in the group (e.g., Hodges & Perry, 1999;
Salmivalli & Isaacs, 2005), bullies can maximize
the social rewards they gain from peers while
minimizing their loss of affection (Veenstra, Lin-
denberg, Munniksma, & Dijkstra, 2010). If they
targeted peers who had many friends, or who
were highly liked by classmates at large, students
doing the bullying would be more likely to be
confronted or rejected by these friends, or by
classmates in general.
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Theories of Bullying and Cyberbullying
To sum up, bullies desire to be visible,
powerful, and popular. Unfortunately, research
demonstrates that it is possible for them to reach
such goals by bullying others. The peer group
rewards the perpetrators of bullying in at least
two ways: by expressing approval (or by not
expressing disapproval) during actual bullying
situations, and by providing the perpetrators with
the position of power and status in the long
Bystanders Matter
How bystanders behave when witnessing bul-
lying is important from the perspective of the
individual children targeted by bullying, but also
from the perspective of the whole bullying dy-
namics of the classroom.
Research has demonstrated that the victims
who have classmates supporting and defending
them are better off than victims without defend-
ers. The defended victims are less depressed and
anxious, they have a higher self-esteem, and they
are less rejected by peers than victims without
defenders, even when the frequency of their
victimization experiences is taken into account
(in other words, their better adjustment is not
only a result of the fact that they are bullied
to a lesser extent; Sainio, Veenstra, Huitsing,
& Salmivalli, 2011). Furthermore, interviews of
adults who used to be bullied during their school
days (Teräsahjo, 1997) have revealed that the
most traumatic memories related to past bullying
are often related to the feeling that no one cared,
rather than to the attacks of the perpetrators as
such. Thus, even one bystander taking sides with
the victimized child or expressing support to him
or her can make a difference.
How bystanders respond when witnessing bul-
lying also influences the extent to which bullying
behavior takes place in a given classroom. Class-
rooms vary in how much and how often bullying
is taking place; about 7% of total variation in
bullying behavior is due to differences between
different classrooms (the rest being due to in-
dividual differences; see Salmivalli, Voeten, &
Poskiparta, 2011). Although the percentage may
seem relatively low, it means that there are some
characteristics of the classroom context (in addi-
tion to characteristics of individual children) that
explain why there is more bullying in some class-
rooms than in others. The classroom differences
can be partly explained by the degree to which
classmates tend to reinforce bullying versus sup-
port and defend victimized peers (Nocentini,
Menesini, & Salmivalli, 2013; Salmivalli et al.,
2011). More specifically, the more classmates
tend to reinforce bullies’ behavior and the less
they provide support to the victims, the more of-
ten bullying is likely to take place in a classroom.
Furthermore, some well-known individual risk
factors for victimization, such as social anxiety,
are more likely to lead to victimization in some
classrooms than in others: again, this depends
on whether it is common among classmates to
reinforce the bullies or support the victimized
peers (Kärnä, Voeten, Poskiparta, & Salmivalli,
2010). Even vulnerable at-risk children do not
necessarily end up as victimized, if the classroom
context does not support such behavior.
The important role of teachers in creating
an environment that does not support bullying
should be noted. Teachers’ efforts to intervene
in bullying, or lack of such efforts, may affect
classroom norms regarding bullying and related
behaviors. Students who perceive their teacher as
clearly disapproving of bullying are less likely
to engage in it (Saarento, Kärnä, Hodges, &
Salmivalli, 2013). Also, it has been found that
positive and supportive student–teacher relation-
ships increase students’ willingness to report
bullying (Eliot, Cornell, Gregory, & Fan, 2010).
Implications for Interventions
Targeting the Group: Why and How?
Children and adolescents facing bullying
problems as bystanders are in a controversial
situation. On one hand, they understand that
bullying is wrong and they would like to do
something to stop it—on the other hand, they
strive to secure their own status and safety in the
peer group. However, if fewer children took on
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Salmivalli Participant Roles in Bullying
the role of reinforcer or assistant when witnessing
bullying, and if the group refused to assign high
status for those who bully, important rewards for
bullying would be lost. Although peers are often
part of the bullying problem, they can also be part
of the solution. Therefore, the success of bullying
prevention/intervention efforts often depends on
how well peer bystanders are utilized in such
Bystanders are likely to be easier to influence
than the active, initiative-taking bullies. The by-
standers often think that bullying is wrong; they
feel bad for the victim, and they would like to
do something to help. Converting their already
existing attitudes into behavior is a challenging
task, but it might nevertheless be a more realistic
goal than influencing an individual bully by adult
sanctions or rewards only.
Even if the change in bystanders’ behavior
would not lead (at least immediately) to changes
in the bully’s behavior, it is very likely to make
a difference in the victim’s situation. Mobilizing
the peer group to support the victim is crucial
in minimizing the adverse effects for those who
are victimized. Victimization is an attack on the
victim’s status, but also on his or her need to
belong (Hawker & Boulton, 2001), and often a
successful one. Having protective friendships or
supporters in the classroom has been shown to
buffer against further victimization, as well as
the negative influences of victimization (Boulton,
Trueman, Chau, Whitehand, & Amatya, 1999;
Hodges, Boivin, Vitaro, & Bukowski, 1999;
Sainio et al., 2011).
Raising children’s awareness of the role by-
standers have in the bullying process is impor-
tant. Many children and youth may think that
as long as they do not participate in bullying
behavior as perpetrators, they do not have any-
thing to do with the problem. Introducing the
different participant roles to children and having
them reflect on their own typical behavior when
witnessing bullying may already be helpful (“I
don’t really approve of bullying and I would like
it to stop, but admittedly, I often laugh when Lisa
is making fun of Mary”). Students may even be
provided feedback about their typical participant
roles, as observed by the teacher or by class-
mates. Students can discuss together and brain-
storm ways in which they might change their re-
sponses to bullying into more constructive ones.
Enhancing children’s empathic understanding
of the victims’ situation can strengthen their
motivation to stand up for victimized peers. Short
films of former victims telling how bullying has
influenced their schooldays, but also their lives
later on, can be helpful. Also learning-by-doing
exercises where children have a chance to un-
derstand the feelings resulting from victimization
from the target’s standpoint provide them insight
into the negative feelings associated with such a
plight. Role-play can also be used to explore the
feelings associated with other participant roles.
How does it feel to witness bullying without
doing anything on behalf of the victim? Why is it
difficult to show disapproval of bullying or take
sides with the vulnerable peers?
Students should be provided with safe strate-
gies to support the victim. This does not nec-
essarily mean heroic acts such as intervening
in the bully’s behavior directly, but more subtle
ways in which the victimized peer can be made
feel included and supported. Also, when children
decide to express their disapproval of bullying
together as a group, they are likely to be safe—
and much more influential. After identifying
strategies of countering bullying as an individual
and as a group, these strategies can be rehearsed
in exercises done together in classrooms, or in
smaller groups. When the reward structure of
the classroom changes, supporting and defending
the victim can actually become reinforced and
Because of the group mechanisms involved in
bullying, the teacher is usually the key person in
delivering the preventive interventions described.
This is not to say that parents are unimportant;
however, the whole group (such as the students in
a classroom, smaller peer networks within class-
rooms) is present at school together as a group,
and the teacher has the possibility to interact with
this group, whereas the parents typically know—
and interact with—their own child and perhaps
some closest friends of their child. The school is,
therefore, a unique place to work with the group
and to influence its norms.
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Theories of Bullying and Cyberbullying
Focusing on bystanders in bullying preven-
tion/intervention work does not mean that indi-
vidual bullies should not be targeted at all. When
bullying comes to the attention of adults, the
particular case should be handled, not together
in the classroom but by private, firm discussions
with the individuals involved. Even in such cases,
however, other peers (e.g., some prosocial class-
mates of the targeted child) can be met separately
and encouraged to think of ways in which they
could support the victimized peer who is having
a difficult time.
Can Bystanders Be Influenced by
The important role of bystanders in the bul-
lying process and, consequently, the potential
reductions in bullying that could be achieved by
influencing this group of children is not a new
idea; it has been discussed in the literature for
about 2 decades. It is more rare, however, to
find research where the idea has been put into an
empirical test, examining whether it is possible
to influence bystander behaviors by school-based
interventions (usually delivered by teachers), and
whether changes in bystander responses actually
lead to reductions in bullying.
Polanin, Espelage, and Pigott (2012) identi-
fied 12 studies evaluating the effects of school-
based programs that focused on increasing by-
stander intervention (e.g., Creating a Peaceful
School Learning Environment, Expect Respect,
Kiusaamista Vastaan [Against Bullying; KiVa]
antibullying program, Steps to Respect). Accord-
ing to their meta-analysis, the programs had
(on average) statistically significant effects on
bystander behaviors (intervening on behalf of the
victim), suggesting that it is, indeed, possible to
change peer responses to bullying. There was
variation between different programs, however,
and looking at their effects individually reveals
that six out of the 12 programs yielded significant
changes in the desired direction, that is, leading
to more bystander intervention. In most cases,
the effects were in the expected direction, even
if not significant.
Only one intervention study (Saarento, Boul-
ton, & Salmivalli, 2014) has tested whether
changes in bystander behaviors, in turn, lead to
reduced levels of bullying. The study was done
in the context of evaluating the effects of the
KiVa antibullying program (www.kivaprogram.
net; Salmivalli, Poskiparta, Ahtola, & Haataja,
2013) which is strongly built on the partici-
pant role approach to bullying. The universal
and indicated actions included in the KiVa pro-
gram (three different curricula of student lessons,
online antibullying games, school-based KiVa
teams tackling the cases of bullying coming to
attention together with classroom teachers) are
based on the principles of raising awareness
and empathy, and providing safe strategies to
intervene on behalf of the victimized peers rather
than rewarding the bullies.
It was found by Saarento and colleagues
(2014) that one mechanism through which KiVa
reduced bullying perpetration was by changing
students’ perceptions of how their classmates
responded to bullying as bystanders. In other
words, the KiVa program led individual children
to see more defending of victimized students
in their classroom environment, which in turn
reduced their own engagement in bullying perpe-
tration. Even though other mechanisms of KiVa
effects (e.g., changes in students’ attitudes, as
well as their perceptions of teachers) were found
as well, especially the results concerning how
perceptions of the peers’ reactions influenced
bullying perpetration lends support to the view
that bystanders are important for either maintain-
ing bullying or stopping it, and they should be
utilized in interventions.
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Caravita, S., Di Blasio, P., & Salmivalli, C. (2009).
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... Individuals who bully others often are motivated by a desire to gain (or maintain) high status among their peers (see Rodkin et al., 2015 for a review). During public displays of bullying, bystanders can serve as spectators that confer social status or intervene to make the power play unsuccessful and disrupt the social rewards that bullying offers (Salmivalli, 2014). When considering bullying incidents within a school setting, most students at school are bystanders (Gladden et al., 2014;Glew et al., 2005). ...
... When peers actively defend or intervene at the bullying incident, the frequency of bullying and victimization decreases (Nocentini & Menesini, 2016). Even for children who continue to be victimized despite bystander defending, consistent bystander defending from peers helps the child maintain a sense of belonging and safety compared to other children who are victimized without a defender (Salmivalli, 2014). Therefore, it is important to focus on promoting positive bystander behaviors as part of a bullying prevention program. ...
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Bullying is a prevalent problem in schools and is linked to negative mental health and academic outcomes. Latinx youth, specifically, may experience higher rates of bullying and depression than their non-Latinx peers. Considering that bullying often occurs in front of peers, bystander intervention can be an effective way to reduce bullying at school and lower associated negative outcomes. However, most bullying bystander intervention research does not focus on Latinx students. This study applied the Bullying Literature Project—a five-session bullying intervention that uses existing children’s books—to promote bystander behavior among Latinx elementary school students. The present study examined the effectiveness of the Bullying Literature Project intervention on bystander behaviors using a quasi-experimental design among 192 elementary school students (44.3% females, 81 third graders, and 111 fourth graders) from eight classrooms in two schools with majority low-SES, Latinx student bodies. Results showed that students in the intervention group reported significant increases in positive bystander behaviors compared with students in the waitlist control group (F(1, 166) = 4.72, p = .031). Social validity data suggested that teachers and students were satisfied with the intervention. We discuss practical implications for the use of children’s literature by school-based mental health providers as a medium for bystander intervention to promote positive bystander behaviors among elementary school students.
... Dies bedeutet jedoch nicht, dass sie tatsächlich vollkommen unbeteiligt sind. Vielmehr tragen sie durch ihre Untätigkeit zur Entstehung und Aufrechterhaltung von Bullying bei, da passives Verhalten den Eindruck stillschweigenden Einverständnis wecken kann (Salmivalli, 2014) oder die Täter sogar dazu anstacheln kann, sich durch aggressive Handlungen zu profilieren und damit Stärke und Überlegenheit zu demonstrieren (vgl. Stueve et al., 2006). ...
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Ein bedauerlicher Fehler im Verlag hat dazu geführt, dass auf Seite 34 in Tabelle 1.4 ein Zahlendreher enthalten war. Dies wurde nachträglich durch den Verlag korrigiert.
... According to the social-cognitive approach, bullying perpetration is a result of a child's social learning, an adoption of the behavior which receives rewards and is typical for the social environment (Swearer et al., 2014). Bullying also is explained as a way for a bully to increase his/her popularity, visibility or to get other resources among the peers (Salmivalli, 2014). Another explanation of bullying suggests that it is determined by a desperate need to belong and can be a way of coping with a fundamental fear of social exclusion (Underwood and Ehrenreich, 2014). ...
... This research has focused on identifying different individual, interpersonal, group, and intergroup factors that may influence how children/ adolescents understand and evaluate bullying acts. Individual-level factors, such as high levels of self-efficacy, openness, and empathy have been related to bystander-defending behavioral intentions (e.g., Abbott & Cameron, 2014;Salmivalli, 2014) and may interact with group processes to predict bystanders' behavioral intentions toward bullying (e.g., ingroup identification and intergroup contact; Palmer & Abbott, 2017). ...
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Bystanders’ helping interventions in bias-based bullying are rare, although they have the potential to intervene on behalf of the victim and quickly stop the aggression. Two studies tested, experimentally, the impact of adolescents' imagined (Study 1, N = 113, Mage = 16.17) and extended contact experiences (Study 2, N = 174, Mage =15.79) on assertive bystanders’ behavioral intentions in the context of homophobic bullying, an under- researched but highly detrimental behavior that emerges mainly during early adolescence (Espelage et al., 2018). Potential mediators (empathic concern, social contagion concerns, and masculinity/femininity threat) were also examined. Results showed that female younger participants revealed more behavioral intentions to help victims of homophobic bullying, when asked to imagine an interaction with an outgroup member (Study 1). Younger participants revealed less masculinity/femininity threat in the positive extended contact condition, and female participants revealed less empathic concern in the negative extended contact condition (Study 2). Overall, these findings identify specific conditions (e.g., younger female) where indirect contact interventions (i.e., extended and imagined) are likely to have a stronger impact. Age and sex differences found illustrate how adolescents vary in their behavioral intentions, empathic concern and threat; and also highlight the need to further examine age and sex differences regarding responses to homophobic bullying episodes.
... New RCT autonomy-supportive teaching interventions to reduce victimization integrate perspectives from (a) a social-ecological framework that highlights the critical role of bystanders and the classroom climate (e.g., Hong & Espelage, 2012;Thornberg et al., 2018;Van Ryzin & Roseth, 2018), (b) the key role classmatesbystanders contribute to the escalation or de-escalation of bully-victim episodes (Kärnä et al., 2013;Salmivalli, 2014), and (c) self-determination theory to explain how teachers can create a socially cohesive and antibullying classroom climate (e.g., Assor et al., 2018;Cheon, Reeve, Marsh, & Song, 2022;Reeve et al., 2022). Many of these new investigations emphasize the teacher's important preventive role in establishing a supportive classroom climate early in the school year (Assor et al., 2018;Cheon, Reeve, Marsh, & Song, 2022;Thornberg et al., 2018;Van Ryzin & Roseth, 2018). ...
Peer victimization at school is a worldwide problem with profound implications for victims, bullies, and whole-school communities. Yet the 50-year quest to solve the problem has produced mostly disappointing results. A critical examination of current research reveals both pivotal limitations and potential solutions. Solutions include introducing psychometrically sound measures to assess the parallel components of bullying and victimization, analyzing cross-national data sets, and embracing a social-ecological perspective emphasizing the motivation of bullies, importance of bystanders, pro-defending and antibullying attitudes, classroom climate, and a multilevel perspective. These solutions have been integrated into a series of recent interventions. Teachers can be professionally trained to create a highly supportive climate that allows student-bystanders to overcome their otherwise normative tendency to reinforce bullies. Once established, this intervention-enabled classroom climate impedes bully-victim episodes. The take-home message is to work with teachers on how to develop an interpersonally supportive classroom climate at the beginning of the school year to catalyze student-bystanders' volitional internalization of pro-defending and antibullying attitudes and social norms. Recommendations for future research include studying bullying and victimization simultaneously, testing multilevel models, targeting classroom climate and bystander roles as critical intervention outcomes, and integrating school-wide and individual student interventions only after improving social norms and the school climate.
... 4. As well as seeking to develop a school ethos that may prevent bullying, the model may encourage schools to develop more effective and appropriate intervention methods, recognizing that a failure to stop cases of bullying from continuing can set up a cycle of bullying that may become more difficult to deal with, as more students may join in the bullying (Rigby, 2012a(Rigby, , b, 2021a. 5. It identifies the importance of bystander behavior, given the strong influence of positive bystander action in stopping cases from continuing (Hawkins et al., 2001;Salmivalli, 2014). Teachers can encourage positive bystander action to assist victims through classroom discussions (Rigby & Johnson, 2006a, 2006b. ...
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This article examines alternative and supplementary ways in which theorists and researchers have sought to account for bullying behavior among students in schools. Contemporary explanations acknowledge the variety, complexity, and interactivity of both person and environmental factors in determining acts of bullying in schools. Two explanatory models or frameworks are described: (i) an adaptation of the theory of planned behavior proposed by Ajzen (Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 50:179–211, 1991); and (ii) the comprehensive model of bullying (CMB) by Rigby (Multiperspectivity in school bullying, page 64. Routlege, 2021b). The strengths and limitations of these models are discussed, together with applications in addressing school bullying.
... Importantly, bullying problems in schools do not only affect the victims and their aggressors (i.e. the bully or bullies). The studies developed by Christina Salmivalli have highlighted the need to also consider other participants in bullying situations so that we can more fully understand the dynamics of victimisation and its complexity (e.g., Salmivalli, 2014). An important group of pupils are those who can be categorised as "bystanders". ...
This study evaluated the relationship among use defending behaviors, gender, and self-esteem among students trained in a brief, bystander bullying intervention (N = 93). Students were taught four specific strategies to use to defend targets of bullying. We used hierarchical regression analyses to test a moderator model in which we hypothesized females would report using defending behaviors more frequently than males post-training and that baseline self-esteem would moderate this relationship. Findings partially supported our hypotheses. Specifically, for “Turning it Over” (i.e., reporting bullying to an adult) and “Coaching Compassion” (i.e., gently confronting the perpetrator to communicate their behavior is not acceptable), the gender x self-esteem interaction was significant, suggesting that females with high self-esteem were most likely to use these defending behaviors post-training. In contrast, for “Stealing the Show” (i.e., using their sense of humor to distract the peer audience’s attention away from the target), high self-esteem was positively associated with frequency of using this defending behavior for both males and females. For “Accompanying Others” (i.e., reaching out to the target to offer support), females used this strategy more frequently than males, and self-esteem was not a significant moderator. Findings highlight the importance of gender and self-esteem as significant factors that influence whether or not bystanders defend targets of bullying post-training. Implications for bystander training in school-based bullying prevention programs are discussed.
The purpose of the article is to provide an overview of recent trends in educational and social psychology research and bullying research. In the first section of the paper, educational and social psychology research published in The Proceedings of the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Japanese Association of Educational Psychology and The Japanese Journal of Educational Psychology, from July 2020 to June 2021, are reviewed. In the second part of the paper, trends in research on bullying from The Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Japanese Association of Educational Psychology and The Japanese Journal of Educational Psychology published over a 12-year period from 2010 to June 2021 are reviewed. Finally, the definition of bullying, cyberbullying in schools, and prospects for future research into bullying are discussed.
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Bullying is a widespread problem in schools and communities around the world, and nationwide initiatives to prevent and reduce it have begun to emerge in European countries. In Finland, the effects of the national antibullying program, KiVa, have been evaluated first in a randomized controlled trial (2007–2009) and then during nationwide rollout across schools (since 2009). The KiVa program has been found to reduce bullying and victimization, while it increases empathy toward victimized peers and self-efficacy to defend them. Moreover, the program has produced reductions in reinforcement of the bullies’ behavior. Finally, KiVa has been found to increase school liking and school motivation, whereas it has led to significant reductions in anxiety, depression, and negative peer perceptions among children and youth. The uptake of the program by Finnish schools has been remarkable, as 90% of the comprehensive schools are at present implementing KiVa. The paper describes the development of the KiVa program, evaluation of its effects, and its implementation across Finnish schools. Challenges in sustainability and high-level implementation of the program are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
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This longitudinal study examines the mediating mechanisms by which the KiVa antibullying program, based on the Participant Role approach, reduces bullying and victimization among elementary school students. Both student-level mechanisms leading to reduced perpetration of bullying and classroom-level mechanisms leading to reductions in bullying and victimization are considered. Analyses are based on a sample of 7,491 students (49.5 % boys) nested within 421 classrooms within 77 schools. At the beginning of program implementation, the children were in Grades 4, 5, and 6 (mean age 11.3 years). Multilevel structural equation modeling was used to analyze whether changes in the hypothesized mediators accounted for later reductions in the outcomes. At the student level, antibullying attitudes and perceptions regarding peers' defending behaviors and teacher attitudes toward bullying mediated the effects of KiVa on self-reported bullying perpetration. The effects on peer-reported bullying were only mediated by antibullying attitudes. At the classroom level, the program effects on both self- and peer-reported bullying were mediated by students' collective perceptions of teacher attitudes toward bullying. Also, perceived reinforcing behaviors predicted bullying but did not emerge as a significant mediator. Finally, bullying mediated the effects of the classroom-level factors on victimization. These findings enhance knowledge of the psychosocial developmental processes contributing to bullying and victimization and shed light on the key mechanisms by which school bullying can successfully be counteracted.
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We examined the connections between attitudes, group norms, and students’ behaviour in bullying situations (bullying others, assisting the bully, reinforcing the bully, defending the victim, or staying outside bullying situations). The participants were 1220 elementary school children (600 girls and 620 boys) from 48 school classes from Grades four, five, and six, i.e., 9–10, 10–11, and 11–12 years of age. Whereas attitudes did predict behaviour at the student level in most cases (although the effects were moderate after controlling for gender), the group norms could be used in explaining variance at the classroom level, especially in the upper grades. The class context (even if not classroom norms specifically) had more effect on girls’ than on boys’ bullying-related behaviours.
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We examined whether the bystanders’ behaviors in bullying situations influence vulnerable students’ risk for victimization. The sample consisted of 6,980 primary school children from Grades 3–5, who were nested within 378 classrooms in 77 schools. These students filled out Internet-based questionnaires in their schools’ computer labs. The results from multilevel models indicated that the associations between victimization and its two risk factors—social anxiety and peer rejection—were strongest in classrooms that were high in reinforcing bullying and low in defending the victims. This suggests that bystanders’ behaviors in bullying situations moderate the effects of individual and interpersonal risk factors for victimization. Influencing these behaviors might be an effective way to protect vulnerable children from victimization.
Bullying was investigated as a group process, a social phenomenon taking place in a school setting among 573 Finnish sixth-grade children (286 girls, 287 boys) aged 12–13 years. Different Participant Roles taken by individual children in the bullying process were examined and related to a) self-estimated behavior in bullying situations, b) social acceptance and social rejection, and c) belongingness to one of the five sociometric status groups (popular, rejected, neglected, controversial, and average). The Participant Roles assigned to the subject were Victim, Bully, Reinforcer of the bully, Assistant of the bully, Defender of the victim, and Outsider. There were significant sex differences in the distribution of Participant Roles. Boys were more frequently in the roles of Bully, Reinforcer and Assistant, while the most frequent roles of the girls were those of Defender and Outsider. The subjects were moderately well aware of their Participant Roles, although they underestimated their participation in active bullying behavior and emphasized that they acted as Defenders and Outsiders. The sociometric status of the children was found to be connected to their Participant Roles. © 1996 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Twenty-eight early adolescent boys and girls suspended from school for bullying provided accounts of the importance of reputation in their daily lives, specifically how they initiated, promoted, and then maintained their reputation through bullying. Overall, bullying was a deliberate choice perpetrated to attain a nonconforming reputation and was initially promoted through visibility of physical bullying. These actions became more covert, particularly among girls, during the promotion phase. Sex differences were most marked in the maintenance phase. Although both boys and girls used cyber bullying to deliberately induce a sense of apprehension and fear, boys also deliberately damaged their victim's houses and gardens outside of school hours to induce a greater sense of fear and hence maintain their nonconforming reputation.
This study examined factors that influence a student's willingness to seek help for a threat of violence. The sample consisted of 542 middle school students who completed an anonymous survey that asked students how likely they would be to seek help in response to being bullied or threatened. The survey also included measures of type of bullying, attitudes toward aggressive behavior, and perceptions of teacher tolerance for bullying. Stepwise multiple regression analyses indicated that willingness to seek help is lower in higher grade levels and among males. Students who hold aggressive attitudes and perceive the school climate to be tolerant of bullying were less likely to report a willingness to seek help. Implications for improving student willingness to seek help are discussed.
The purpose of this study was to simultaneously investigate student-, classroom-, and school-level risk factors for victimization. Both peer nominations and students' self-reports of victimization were utilized. The sample consisted of 6731 Finnish elementary school students (3386 girls and 3345 boys) nested in 358 classrooms in 74 schools. The participants were from Grades 3, 4, and 5 (mean age 11years). The results of multilevel analyses indicated that there was considerable variability in, and distinctive risk factors associated with, both peer- and self-reported victimization at all the three levels investigated. Social anxiety and peer rejection synergistically predicted victimization at the student level. At the classroom level, negative social outcome expectations of defending the victim were associated with an increased risk of a student being bullied. Victimization was also common in classrooms and schools where students perceived their teachers to have less disapproving attitudes toward bullying. Furthermore, the effects of the student-level predictors were found to vary across classrooms, and classroom size moderated the effects of social anxiety and peer rejection on victimization. By identifying the risk factors at the multiple levels, and looking into cross-level interactions among these factors, research can help to target interventions at the key ecological factors contributing to victimization, making it possible to maximize the effectiveness of interventions.