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Bullying and Moral Disengagement in Early Adolescence: Do Personality and Family Functioning Matter?

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Abstract

Objectives

The present study adopted a multi-informant approach to investigate the contribution of personality and family functioning to moral disengagement and bullying-related behaviors in early adolescence.

Method

The sample included 102 early adolescents (53 boys and 49 girls; Mage = 12.21 years). Behaviors during bullying situations were detected by peer nominations. Self-report measures were administered to assess moral disengagement and family functioning. A parent-report was administered to detect personality traits.

Results

Findings of the hierarchical regression analyses (effect size = 0.23, power = 0.95, α = 5%; CI = 95%) showed that extraversion was positively associated with bullying and moral disengagement, while benevolence was positively associated with defending behavior. Family functioning was negatively associated with moral disengagement. Moderation analyses indicated that a low conscientiousness, together with a low family functioning, decreased the likelihood of defending behavior and increased the risk of bullying. High levels of benevolence decreased outsider behavior in students with a high family functioning. Although extraversion was positively associated with bullying and moral disengagement, findings suggested that it increased moral disengagement only among early adolescents with low family functioning.

Conclusions

Overall, findings underline the importance of addressing individual and contextual variables when studying bullying and moral disengagement among early adolescents.

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Author Contributions

AM contributed to the design of the study, collected the data, drafted the theoretical sections and contributed to the literature review, interpretation of results, and writing of the paper. MC contributed to the design of the study, performed the analyses, drafted the Results sections, and contributed to the interpretation of findings and writing of the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Angela Mazzone.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Italian Association of Psychology (AIP) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.

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Mazzone, A., Camodeca, M. Bullying and Moral Disengagement in Early Adolescence: Do Personality and Family Functioning Matter?. J Child Fam Stud 28, 2120–2130 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01431-7

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Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Defending
  • Outsider
  • Moral disengagement
  • Personality
  • Family functioning