This study examined the role of pro-victim attitudes, personal responsibility, coping responses to observations of bullying, and perceived peer normative pressure in explaining defending the victim and passive bystanding behavior in bullying. A total of 462 Italian early adolescents (mean age = 13.4 years, SD = 9 months) participated in the study. The behaviors were measured through two informants: each individual student and the teachers. The findings of a series of hierarchical regressions showed that, regardless of the informant, problem solving coping strategies and perceived peer normative pressure for intervention were positively associated with active help towards a bullied peer and negatively related to passivity. In contrast, distancing strategies were positively associated with passive bystanding, whereas they were negatively associated with teacher-reported defending behavior. Moreover, self-reported defending behavior was positively associated with personal responsibility for intervention, but only under conditions of low perceived peer pressure. Finally, the perception of peer pressure for intervention buffered the negative influence of distancing on passive bystanding tendencies. Future directions are discussed.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park: Sage.
Anderson, J. C., & Gerbin, D. W. (1988). Structural equation modeling in practice: a review and recommended two step approach. Psychological Bulletin, 103, 411–423.
Andreou, E., & Metallidou, P. (2004). The relationship of academic and social cognition to behavior in bullying situations among Greek primary school children. Educational Psychology, 24, 27–41.
Bandura, A. (1991). Social cognitive theory of moral thought and action. In W. M. Kurtines & J. L. Gewirtz (Eds.), Handbook of moral behavior and development (Vol. 1, pp. 45–103). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.
Belacchi, C. (2008). I ruoli dei partecipanti nel bullismo: una nuova proposta [Participants Roles in bullying: a new proposal]. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 4, 885–912.
Brown, B. B., Clasen, D. R., & Eicher, S. A. (1986). Perceptions of peer pressure, peer conformity dispositions, and self-reported behavior among adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 22, 521–530.
Bukowski, W., Newcomb, A., & Hartup, W. (1996). The company they keep: Friendship in childhood and adolescence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Camodeca, M., & Goossens, F. A. (2005). Children’s opinions on effective strategies to cope with bullying: the importance of bullying role and perspective. Educational Research, 47, 93–105.
Caravita, S. C. S., Di Blasio, P., & Salmivalli, C. (2009). Unique and interactive effects of empathy and social status on involvement in bullying. Social Development, 18, 140–163.
Carlson, I. W., & Cornell, D. G. (2008). Differences between persistent and desistent middle school bullies. School Psychology International, 29, 442–451.
Causey, D. L., & Dubow, E. F. (1992). Development of a self-report coping measure for elementary school children. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 21, 47–59.
Cowie, H. (2000). Bystanding or standing by: gender issues in coping with bullying in English schools. Aggressive Behavior, 26, 85–97.
Craig, W. M., Pepler, D. J., & Atlas, R. (2000). Observations of bullying in the playground and in the classroom. School Psychology International, 21, 22–36.
Crick, N. R. (1996). The role of overt aggression, relational aggression, and prosocial behavior in the prediction of children’s future social adjustment. Child Development, 67, 2317–2327.
Espelage, D. L., Holt, M. K., & Henkel, R. R. (2003). Examination of peer-group contextual effects on aggression during early adolescence. Child Development, 74, 205–220.
Fornell, C., & Larcker, D. F. (1981). Structural equation models with unobservable variable and measurement error: algebra and statistics. Journal of Marketing Research, 18, 382–388.
Gini, G. (2006a). Social cognition and moral cognition in bullying: what’s wrong? Aggressive Behavior, 32, 528–539.
Gini, G. (2006b). Bullying as a social process: the role of group membership in students’ perception of inter-group aggression at school. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 51–65.
Gini, G. (2007). Who is blameworthy? Social identity and inter-group bullying. School Psychology International, 28, 77–89.
Gini, G. (2008). Associations between bullying, psychosomatic symptoms, emotional and behavioral problems. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 44, 492–497.
Gini, G., & Pozzoli, T. (2009). Association between bullying and psychosomatic problems: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 123, 1059–1065.
Gini, G., Albiero, P., Benelli, B., & Altoè, G. (2007). Does empathy predict adolescents’ bullying and defending behavior? Aggressive Behavior, 33, 467–476.
Gini, G., Albiero, P., Benelli, B., & Altoè, G. (2008a). Determinants of adolescents’ active defending and passive bystanding behavior in bullying. Journal of Adolescence, 31, 93–105.
Gini, G., Pozzoli, T., Borghi, F., & Franzoni, L. (2008b). The role of bystanders in students’ perception of bullying and sense of safety. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 617–638.
Griesler, P. C., & Kandel, D. B. (1998). Ethnic differences in correlates of adolescent cigarette smoking. Journal of Adolescent Health, 23, 167–180.
Hawker, D. S., & Boulton, M. J. (2000). Twenty years’ research on peer victimization and psychosocial adjustment: a meta-analytic review of cross-sectional studies. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 41, 441–455.
Hazler, R. (1996). Bystanders: an overlooked factor in peer on peer abuse. The Journal for the Professional Counsellor, 11, 11–21.
Hoffman, M. L. (2000). Empathy and moral development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jöreskog, K. A., & Sörbom, D. (1993). LISREL 8: Structural equation modelling with the SIMPLIS command language. Chicago: Scientific Software.
Jose, P. E. (2008). ModGraph-I: A programme to compute cell means for the graphical display of moderational analyses: The internet version, Version 2.0. Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington.
Juvonen, J., & Galvan, A. (2008). Peer influence in involuntary social groups: Lessons from research on bullying. In M. J. Prinstein & K. A. Dodge (Eds.), Understanding peer influence in children and adolescents (pp. 225–244). New York: Guilford.
Kristensen, S. M., & Smith, P. K. (2003). The use of coping strategies by Danish children classed as bullies, victims, bully/victims, and not involved, in response to different (hypothetical) types of bullying. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 44, 479–488.
Ladd, G. W. (2003). Probing the adaptive significance of children’s behavior and relationships in the school context: A child-by-environment perspective. In R. Kail (Ed.), Advances in child behavior and development (pp. 43–104). New York: Wiley.
Lodge, J., & Frydenberg, E. (2005). The role of peer bystanders in school bullying: positive steps towards promoting peaceful schools. Theory into Practice, 44, 329–336.
Menesini, E., & Camodeca, M. (2008). Shame and guilt as behaviour regulators: relationships with bullying, victimization and prosocial behaviour. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 26, 183–196.
Menesini, E., & Gini, G. (2000). Il bullismo come processo di gruppo: adattamento e validazione del questionario “Ruoli dei partecipanti” alla popolazione italiana [Bullying as a group process: Adaptation and validation of the Participant Role Questionnaire to the Italian population]. Età Evolutiva, 66, 18–32.
Menesini, E., Sanchez, V., Fonzi, A., Ortega, R., Costabile, A., & Lo Feudo, G. (2003). Moral emotions and bullying: a cross-national comparison of differences between bullies, victims and outsiders. Aggressive Behavior, 29, 515–530.
O’Connell, P., Pepler, D., & Craig, W. (1999). Peer involvement in bullying: insights and challenges for intervention. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 437–452.
Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school. What we know and what we can do. Cambridge: Blackwell.
Pellegrini, A. D., & Bartini, M. (2000). An empirical comparison of methods of sampling aggression and victimization in school settings. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(2), 360–366.
Prinstein, M. J., & Dodge, K. A. (2008). Understanding peer influence in children and adolescents. New York: The Guilford Press.
Rigby, K., & Johnson, B. (2006). Expressed readiness of Australian schoolchildren to act as bystanders in support of children who are being bullied. Educational Psychology, 26, 425–440.
Rigby, K., & Slee, P. T. (1993). Dimensions of interpersonal relation among Australian children and implications for psychological well-being. Journal of Social Psychology, 133, 33–43.
Salmivalli, C., & Voeten, M. (2004). Connections between attitudes, group norms, and behaviors associated with bullying in schools. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 28, 246–258.
Salmivalli, C., Karhunen, J., & Lagerspetz, K. M. J. (1996a). How do the victims respond to bullying? Aggressive Behavior, 22, 99–109.
Salmivalli, C., Lagerspetz, K., Björkqvist, K., Österman, K., & Kaukiainen, A. (1996b). Bullying as a group process: participant roles and their relations to social status within the group. Aggressive Behavior, 22, 1–15.
Schneider, B. H. (2000). Friends and enemies: Peer relations in childhood. London: Arnold.
Sijtsema, J. J., Veenstra, R., Lindenberg, S., & Salmivalli, C. (2009). Empirical test of bullies’ status goals: assessing direct goals, aggression, and prestige. Aggressive Behavior, 35, 57–67.
Smith, P. K., Shu, S., & Madsen, K. (2001). Characteristics of victims of school bullying: Developmental changes in coping strategies and skills. In S. Graham & J. Juvonen (Eds.), Peer harassment in school: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized (pp. 332–351). New York: Guilford.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Pozzoli, T., Gini, G. Active Defending and Passive Bystanding Behavior in Bullying: The Role of Personal Characteristics and Perceived Peer Pressure. J Abnorm Child Psychol 38, 815–827 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-010-9399-9
- Participant roles in bullying
- Coping responses
- Personal responsibility
- Perceived peer pressure