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Bystander motivation in bullying incidents: To intervene or not to intervene?
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education, Teaching and Learning. Linköping University, Faculty of Educational Sciences.
Georgia State University, USA.
Georgia State University, USA.
Georgia State University, USA.
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2012 (English)In: Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, ISSN 1936-900X, EISSN 1936-9018, Vol. 13, no 3, 247-252 p.Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]


This research sought to extend knowledge about bystanders in bullying situations with a focus on the motivations that lead them to different responses. The 2 primary goals of this study were to investigate the reasons for children's decisions to help or not to help a victim when witnessing bullying, and to generate a grounded theory (or conceptual framework) of bystander motivation in bullying situations.


Thirty students ranging in age from 9 to 15 years (M = 11.9; SD = 1.7) from an elementary and middle school in the southeastern United States participated in this study. Open- ended, semi-structured interviews were used, and sessions ranged from 30 to 45 minutes. We conducted qualitative methodology and analyses to gain an in-depth understanding of children's perspectives and concerns when witnessing bullying.


A key finding was a conceptual framework of bystander motivation to intervene in bullying situations suggesting that deciding whether to help or not help the victim in a bullying situation depends on how bystanders define and evaluate the situation, the social context, and their own agency. Qualitative analysis revealed 5 themes related to bystander motives and included: interpretation of harm in the bullying situation, emotional reactions, social evaluating, moral evaluating, and intervention self-efficacy.


Given the themes that emerged surrounding bystanders' motives to intervene or abstain from intervening, respondents reported 3 key elements that need to be confirmed in future research and that may have implications for future work on bullying prevention. These included: first, the potential importance of clear communication to children that adults expect bystanders to intervene when witnessing bullying; second, the potential of direct education about how bystanders can intervene to increase children's self-efficacy as defenders of those who are victims of bullying; and third, the assumption that it may be effective to encourage children's belief that bullying is morally wrong.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
eScholarship, 2012. Vol. 13, no 3, 247-252 p.
Keyword [en]
bullying, bystander, moral
Keyword [sv]
mobbning, åskådare, vittne, moral
National Category
Pedagogy Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-81070DOI: 10.5811/westjem.2012.3.11792OAI: diva2:550129
Available from: 2012-09-06 Created: 2012-09-06 Last updated: 2012-10-30

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Thornberg, RobertJungert, Tomas
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