Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 12, pp 2289–2307 | Cite as

Prosocial Bystander Behavior in Bullying Dynamics: Assessing the Impact of Social Capital

  • Caroline B. R. Evans
  • Paul R. Smokowski
Empirical Research


Individuals who observe a bullying event, but are not directly involved as a bully or victim, are referred to as bystanders. Prosocial bystanders are those individuals who actively intervene in bullying dynamics to support the victim and this prosocial behavior often ends the bullying. The current study examines how social capital in the form of social support, community engagement, mental health functioning, and positive school experiences and characteristics is associated with the likelihood of engaging in prosocial bystander behavior in a large sample (N = 5752; 51.03 % female) of racially/ethnically diverse rural youth. It was hypothesized that social capital would be associated with an increased likelihood of engaging in prosocial bystander behavior. Following multiple imputation, an ordered logistic regression with robust standard errors was run. The hypothesis was partially supported and results indicated that social capital in the form of friend and teacher support, ethnic identity, religious orientation, and future optimism were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of engaging in prosocial bystander behavior. Contrary to the hypothesis, a decreased rate of self-esteem was significantly associated with an increased likelihood of engaging in prosocial bystander behavior. The findings highlight the importance of positive social relationships and community engagement in increasing prosocial bystander behavior and ultimately decreasing school bullying. Implications were discussed.


School bullying Bystander Adolescence Rural Social capital 



Funding for this research was provided through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (5 U01 CE001948-03).

Authors’ contributions

Both CBRE and PRS conceived of the study by jointly creating the theoretical framework and selecting the independent variables. CBRE conducted the multiple imputation and the data analysis and wrote the manuscript. PRS obtained the funding to make the current study possible, implemented the data collection, oversaw the data analysis, and assisted in drafting and editing the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Funding for this research was provided through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (5 U01 CE001948-03).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WelfareUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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