Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 265–276 | Cite as

Peer Bystanders to Bullying: Who Wants to Play with the Victim?

  • Anne M. Howard
  • Steven LandauEmail author
  • John B. Pryor


Given widespread concern associated with school-based bullying, researchers have looked beyond a dyadic perspective (i.e., bullies and victims only), and now consider the broader social ecology of the peer group. In this research, we examined how the behaviors of peer bystanders influence subsequent reactions to bullies and their victims. Two hundred and six 10- to 15-year-old boys (Mage = 12.46) were invited to play a computer game with three other boys allegedly located at another school. Before the start of the game, participants “met the other players” apparently sitting in a waiting room. These child actors depicted an escalating bullying episode in which the behavior of the bystander was manipulated: aide to the bully, defender of the victim, or passive outsider. Immediately after exposure to the bullying, each participant played a ball toss game (Cyberball) with the three other boys in the video. Individual differences among participants were examined as moderators of the effect of bystander behavior on participants’ willingness to include the “victim” in the game. Results indicated that, when exposed to a passive bystander, boys’ normative beliefs about aggression, as well as their tendency to morally disengage from observed egregious acts, decreased their willingness to include the victim in the game.


Children’s bullying Bystander effect Individual differences 


Author Note

Anne M. Howard is now at Department of Behavioral Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne M. Howard
    • 1
  • Steven Landau
    • 1
    Email author
  • John B. Pryor
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyIllinois State UniversityNormalUSA

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