Social Justice Research

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 119–138 | Cite as

Injustice in School and Students’ Emotions, Well-Being, and Behavior: A Longitudinal study

  • Johanna PretschEmail author
  • Natalie Ehrhardt
  • Lisa Engl
  • Björn Risch
  • Jürgen Roth
  • Stefan Schumacher
  • Manfred Schmitt


School can be regarded as an important factor in the development of children’s values and attitudes. Given this great importance of justice experiences for students’ development, this study aimed at examining the influence of perceived injustice in school on students’ emotions, well-being, and behavior with an experimental longitudinal design. In total, 196 students participated in this study and came to the university with their classes to receive extra teaching once a week for six consecutive weeks. To manipulate justice perceptions, a scenario of arbitrary privilege was chosen to lead students of the experimental group to experience injustice from a beneficiary perspective. We found that students in the experimental group reported higher well-being and a higher appreciation of the opportunity to learn than the control group did. Additionally, they showed an increase in justice-related negative emotions over time; that is, they expressed more of a bad conscience and stronger feelings of anger the more they became aware of their privilege. This study shows that even subtle experiences of injustice in school can have an impact on students’ outcomes. These results are discussed with regard to practical implications.


Injustice perceptions Behavior Well-being Education 


  1. Anderson, C. S. (1982). The search for school climate: A review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 52, 368–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baumert, A., Beierlein, C., Schmitt, M., Kemper, C.J., Kovaleva, A., Liebig, S., & Rammstedt, B. (2014). Measuring four perspectives of justice sensitivity with two items each. Journal of Personality Assessment, 96(3), 380–390. doi: 10.1080/00223891.2013.836526.
  3. Baumert, A., Halmburger, A., & Schmitt, M. (2013). Intervention against norm violations: Dispositional determinants of self-reported and real moral courage. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39(8), 1053–1068.Google Scholar
  4. Chory-Assad, R. M. (2002). Classroom justice: Perceptions of fairness as a predictor of student motivation, learning, and aggression. Communication Quarterly, 50, 58–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chory-Assad, R. M., & Paulsel, M. L. (2004). Antisocial classroom communication: Instructor influence and interactional justice as predictors of student aggression. Communication Quarterly, 52, 98–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Connell, R. W. (1993). Schools and social justice. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dalbert, C. (2011). Übersichtsarbeit. Warum die durch die Schüler und Schülerinnen individuell und subjektiv erlebte Gerechtigkeit des Lehrerhandelns wichtig ist. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie, 25, 5–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dalbert, C. (2013). Gerechtigkeit in der Schule. Wiesbaden: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Denison, D. R. (1996). What is the difference between organizational culture and organizational climate? A native’s view on a decade of paradigm wars. The Academy of Management Review, 21, 619–654.Google Scholar
  10. Deutsch, M. (1979). Education and distributive justice: Some reflections on grading systems. American Psychologist, 34, 301–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dion, K. L., & Dion, K. K. (1987). Belief in a just world and physical attractiveness stereotyping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 775–781.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Donat, M., Umlauft, S., Dalbert, C., & Kamble, S. V. (2012). Belief in a just world, teacher justice, and bullying behavior. Aggressive Behaviour, 38, 185–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Folger, R. (1977). Distributive and procedural justice: Combined impact of “voice” and improvement on experienced inequity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 108–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Furnham, A., & Siegel, E. M. (2012). Reactions to organizational injustice: Counter work be-haviors and the insider threat. In E. Kals & J. Maes (Eds.), Justice and Conflicts (pp. 199–217). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  15. Gollwitzer, M., Schmitt, M., Schalke, R., Maes, J., & Baer, A. (2005). Asymmetrical effects of justice sensitivity perspectives on prosocial and antisocial behavior. Social Justice Research, 18(2), 183–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Greenberg, G. (1990). Employee theft as a reaction to underpayment inequity: The hidden cost of pay cuts. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75, 561–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gummerum, M., Hanoch, Y., Keller, M., Parsons, K., & Hummel, A. (2010). Preschoolers’ allocations in the dictator game: The role of moral emotions. Journal of Economic Psychology, 31(1), 25–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jasso, G. (1980). A new theory of distributive justice. American Sociological Review, 45, 3–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jost, J. T., & Banaji, M. (1994). The role of stereotyping in system justification and the production of false consciousness. British Journal of Social Psychology, 22, 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kickul, J., Gundry, L. K., & Posig, M. (2005). Does trust matter? The relationship between equity sensitivity and perceived organizational justice. Journal of Business Ethics, 56(3), 205–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lerner, M. J., & Miller, D. T. (1978). Just world research and the attribution process: Looking back and ahead. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 1030–1051.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lind, E. A., & Tyler, T. R. (1988). The social psychology of procedural justice. New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Markovsky, B. (1985). Toward a multilevel justice theory. American Sociological Review, 50, 822–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Muraven, M., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Self-regulation and depletion of limited resources: Does self-control resemble a muscle? Psychological Bulletin, 126(2), 247–259.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Nelissen, R. M. A., & Zeelenberg, M. (2009). When guilt evokes self-punishment: Evidence for the existence of a Dobby effect. Emotion, 9(1), 118–122.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Resh, N., & Sabbagh, C. (2014). Sense of justice in school and civic attitudes. Social Psychology of Education, 17, 51–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schmitt, M., Baumert, A., Gollwitzer, M., & Maes, J. (2010). The justice sensitivity inventory: Factorial validity, location in the personality facet space, demographic pattern, and normative data. Social Justice Research, 23(2–3), 211–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schmitt, M., Gollwitzer, M., Maes, J., & Arbach, D. (2005). Justice sensitivity: Assessment and location in the personality space. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 21, 202–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tata, J. (1999). Grade distributions, grading procedures, and students’ evaluations of instructors: A justice perspective. The Journal of Psychology, 133, 263–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Thorkildsen, T. A. (1989). Justice in the classroom: The student’s view. Child Development, 60, 323–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Van den Bos, K., Maas, M., Waldring, I. E., & Semin, G. R. (2003). Toward understanding the psychology of reactions to perceived fairness: The role of affect intensity. Social Justice Research, 16(2), 151–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Walzer, M. (1983). Spheres of justice. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johanna Pretsch
    • 1
    Email author
  • Natalie Ehrhardt
    • 1
  • Lisa Engl
    • 2
  • Björn Risch
    • 2
  • Jürgen Roth
    • 3
  • Stefan Schumacher
    • 3
  • Manfred Schmitt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany
  2. 2.Department of Natural Sciences EducationUniversity of Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany
  3. 3.Department of MathematicsUniversity of Koblenz-LandauLandauGermany

Personalised recommendations