Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 757–771 | Cite as

Social Capital and Bystander Behavior in Bullying: Internalizing Problems as a Barrier to Prosocial Intervention

  • Lyndsay N. Jenkins
  • Stephanie Secord FredrickEmail author
Empirical Research


Theory and research suggests that individuals with greater social capital (i.e., resources and benefits gained from relationships, experiences, and social interactions) may be more likely to be active, prosocial bystanders in bullying situations. Therefore, the goal of the current study was to examine the association of social capital (social support and social skills) with prosocial bystander behavior, and the role of internalizing problems as a potential barrier to this relation among 299 students (45.8% girls, 95% White) in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Results indicate a positive relation between social capital and prosocial bystander behavior. In addition, internalizing problems were a significant risk factor that may hinder youth—particularly girls—from engaging in defending behavior. Prosocial bystanders are an essential component to prevent and reduce bullying and further research is needed to better understand how to foster prosocial behavior in bullying situations, perhaps by utilizing social capital, related to school bullying.


Social capital Defending Bystander behavior Social skills Social support 



The study did not have any sources of funding.

Authors’ Contributions

L. J. conceived of the study, coordinated and oversaw data collection, and helped with the design of the study. S. F. helped with the design of the study and performed the statistical analysis and data interpretation. Both authors drafted the manuscript and read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Data were collected at a middle school as part of a school-wide social and emotional evaluation. In accordance with school procedures, parents/guardians provided consent for all social, emotional, behavioral, and academic universal evaluations (i.e., assessments given to all students) at the beginning of the school year at registration. One week prior to the evaluation, a letter was sent to parents/guardians to notify them of the data collection and were given the option to have their child opt out of participating in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyEastern Illinois UniversityCharlestonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyCentral Michigan UniversityMt. PleasantUSA

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