Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 581–596 | Cite as

School and Family Factors Predicting Adolescent Cognition Regarding Bystander Intervention in Response to Bullying and Victim Retaliation

  • Kelly Lynn MulveyEmail author
  • Seçil Gönültaş
  • Eric Goff
  • Greysi Irdam
  • Ryan Carlson
  • Christine DiStefano
  • Matthew J. Irvin
Empirical Research


Youth aggression occurs at high rates. Aggressive acts can be curbed through bystander intervention; yet, little is known about school and family factors that predict bystander intervention in response to both aggression and victim retaliation. This research examines school and family factors related to standing up to aggression and intervening before possible retaliation occurs. Participants included 6th and 9th graders (N = 896, 52.8% female), who evaluated how likely they would be to intervene if they observed aggression and if they heard the victim was planning to retaliate. Family and school factors are important predictors of bystander intervention, with higher family management, and more positive school climate associated with greater likelihood of intervention and higher feelings of social exclusion and teacher and peer discrimination associated with inactive responses to aggression and retaliation. Thus, a complex constellation of factors relate to the likelihood of intervening if someone is being victimized or considering retaliation in response to victimization. The results provide guidance and new directions for possible school- and family-based interventions to encourage bystander intervention in instances of aggression.


Bystander intervention Family School climate Discrimination Peers Moral judgments 



We thank the teachers, students and families who participated in this research as well as our research assistants who aided in collecting and preparing the data for this project.

Authors’ Contributions

K.L.M., M.J.I., C.D., and R.C. designed the study. K.L.M. and S.G. conducted analyses and drafted the manuscript. S.G., E.G. and G.I. collected the data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This project was supported by award No. 2016-R2-CX-0056, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.

Data Sharing and Declaration

All data associated with this project will be stored in the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data by 2020.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of South Carolina and North Carolina State University approved the study with an inter-institutional agreement.

Informed Consent

All participants assented to participant. Parents provided passive informed consent for all participants.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.University of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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