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Victim Reports of Bystander Reactions to In-Person and Online Peer Harassment: A National Survey of Adolescents


Bullying prevention is increasingly targeting education to bystanders, but more information is needed on the complexities of bystander actions across a wide variety of incidents, including both online and in-person peer harassment. The current study analyzes victim report data from a nationally representative survey of youth ages 10–20 (n = 791; 51 % female). Bystander presence was common across all harassment incident types (80 % of incidents). In contrast to previous research, our study found that supportive bystander behaviors occurred at relatively high rates. Unfortunately, antagonistic bystander behaviors, although less common, were predictive of higher negative impact for the victim. A large percentage of victims (76 %) also disclosed the harassment to confidants, who play an important role as secondary bystanders. While friends were the most common confidant, incidents were also disclosed to adults at high rates (60 %) and with mostly positive results. The findings suggest that prevention programs could increase their impact by targeting education to both direct witnesses and confidants, and considering a wider variety of peer victimization incident types.

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This project was supported by Grant No. 2012-IJ-CX-0024 awarded by the National Institute of Justice. Points of view or opinions in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Author contributions

L.J. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, and drafted the manuscript; K.M. participated in the study design, data analysis, interpretation and writing for the manuscript; H.T. participated in the interpretation of the data and writing for the manuscript. All authors read and approved the current manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lisa M. Jones.

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Jones, L.M., Mitchell, K.J. & Turner, H.A. Victim Reports of Bystander Reactions to In-Person and Online Peer Harassment: A National Survey of Adolescents. J Youth Adolescence 44, 2308–2320 (2015).

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