Bullying as a social process : factors influencing bystander behaviour
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Bullying was approached as a social phenomenon in the present study. The central aim of this thesis was to uncover some of the factors that contribute to the attitudes and behavioural choices of bystanders during bullying situations. With this type of information, interventions can be tailored to change the behaviour of bystanders during bullying situations, and thus the ethos of the larger group. Thus, acting to alter the available sources of reinforcement for bullying behaviour and peer intervention attempts. Six hundred and twenty-six students participated. Students were sampled from grades 4 (n=140), 5 (n=l 13), 7 (n=205), and 8 (n=168). Students were measured for their involvement in bullying and victimization, as well as for involvement in the following bystander behaviours: encouraging, onlooking, defending, and seeking adult support. In addition, students were measured for tolerance of deviance, pro-victim attitudes, social anxiety and fear, and self-efficacy for peer intervention. Last, students were asked to complete a series of qualitative measures, including a series of hypothetical vignettes and open-ended questions. Analyses centered on the following areas: 1) rates of bullying, victimization, and bystander behaviour; 2) the influence of age and gender on bystander behaviour; 3) the characteristics associated with students who predominantly report involvement with defending, seeking adult assistance, encouraging, and onlooking behaviour; and 4) the influence of past involvement with bullying and victimization on bystander behaviour. b .--' -i . k Rates of bullying, victimization, and bystander behaviour were comparable to findings in the existing literature, where male students were more likely than female students to report involvement in both bullying and victimization. Boys were more likely than girls to report participation in encouraging and onlooking behaviours, while being less likely to report involvement in defending and seeking adult assistance. Partly consistent with existing findings, older students were more likely to report involvement in bullying, encouraging, and onlooking behaviour than younger students, who were more likely to report victimization, defending, and seeking adult assistance. Self-identified encouragers and onlookers reported a similar array of characteristics, in that they tended express high levels of tolerance of deviance, while expressing low levels of pro-victim attitudes and self-efficacy for peer intervention. Likewise, self-identified defenders and seekers of adult assistance tended to report a similar array of characteristics to each other, in that they tended to report low levels of tolerance of deviance, while expressing high levels of pro-victim attitudes and self efficacy for peer intervention. Additionally, self-identified bullies and self-identified bully-victims tended to report increased involvement in encouraging and onlooking, whereas self-identified victims tended to report increased involvement in defending behaviour and seeking adult assistance. Results are discussed in terms of implications for bullying prevention and intervention. Specifically, evidence from the present study suggests that as bystanders, students predominantly act to either support bullying acts or to support the victims of these acts, or alternatively, to actively remain outside bullying situations. Thus, encouraging students to make small changes in the way they express these sentiments during bullying situations would act to alter the culture of the larger peer group and the sources of reinforcement available for bullying acts as well as peer intervention attempts.