Academic journal article School Psychology Review

What Makes a Defender? A Multilevel Study of Individual Correlates and Classroom Norms in Explaining Defending Behaviors

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

What Makes a Defender? A Multilevel Study of Individual Correlates and Classroom Norms in Explaining Defending Behaviors

Article excerpt

Bullying is a major social problem affecting children and adolescents in all parts of the world. The term bullying refers to a specific subtype of peer victimization that involves repeated aggressive attacks toward a victim who finds it difficult to defend him/herself from the perpetrator(s) (Olweus, 1991; Salmivalli, 2010). In an international study recently conducted by the World Health Organization with 219,460 students from 42 countries, 11% of the students reported being a victim and 8.5% reported being a bully at least four times during the 2 months prior to the study survey (Inchley et al., 2016). When considering not only the victims and bullies but also the bystanders who view these interactions, the percentage of children involved in bullying can increase to 85%-90% (Pepler & Craig, 1995; Salmivalli, Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, Osterman, & Kaukiainen, 1996). Bullying has serious effects on the psychological and academic adjustment of all the children that take part in these altercations (Gini & Pozzoli, 2013; Hawker & Boulton, 2000; Rivers, Poteat, Noret, & Ashurst, 2009; Ttofi, Farrington, Losel, & Loeber, 2011). Therefore, research on bullying must ultimately support interventions designed to reduce bullying behaviors.

In the past 2 decades, the focus of studies on bullying has gradually moved from studying only bullies and victims (often independent from their social context) to examining different ways bystanders can be involved in the bullying process (Salmivalli, 2010; Salmivalli et al., 1996). In fact, numerous recent models of bullying prevention and intervention have in some way incorporated the idea of changing the ways bystanders behave when witnessing bullying (Frey, Edstrom, & Hirschstein, 2010; Salmivalli, Voeten, & Poskiparta, 2011). For instance, some children can reinforce bullies' behavior by laughing or cheering, or even by silently witnessing it, whereas other students can intervene to help the victimized classmate (Gini, Albiero, Benelli, & Altoe, 2008; Salmivalli et al., 1996). This study paid special attention to defending behaviors, defined as any action aimed at stopping the bullying, helping and consoling the bullied peer, or asking for adult intervention (Poyhonen, Juvonen, & Salmivalli, 2010; Pozzoli & Gini, 2010; Salmivalli et al., 1996). Importantly, research indicates that when bystanders adopt this type of behavior and stand up for the victim, the bullying stops immediately more than 50% of the time (Hawkins, Pepler, & Craig, 2001).

In recent years, there has been a growing body of research on predictors and effects of defending behavior. For instance, different studies have reported that children who defend are rarely aggressive, hold greater provictim attitudes, and have good theory of mind, low moral disengagement, high empathy, and a good social standing within their group (e.g., Caravita, Di Blasio, & Salmivalli, 2009; Gini et al., 2008; Gini, Pozzoli, & Bussey, 2015; Poyhonen et al., 2010; Pozzoli & Gini, 2010; Salmivalli & Voeten, 2004; Thornberg, Pozzoli, Gini, & Jungert, 2015). However, despite the increasing evidence, most of this research is not theoretically grounded. Meter and Card (2015) recently framed this defending research within the interdependence theory (Kelley, 1979). According to this theory, the relationship (i.e., defender-victim, victim-aggressor, victim-aggressor-defender) is what helps us to understand how concern for others is related to concern for the self and how this concern affects motivation to assist others. Thus, in bullying situations, peer relationships influence peer behavior because bystanders can be more supportive of either the victim or the aggressor, depending on their affiliation with the person in each role and other peers. Moreover, Meter and Card (2015) suggested that not only can this theory be used to organize hypotheses about individual, interpersonal, and contextual effects that can lead bystanders to defend, but it also encompasses previous theories on defending behavior (i. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.