Using the Olweus’ (1993, 2013) model of bullying as a framework, hazing and bullying were compared along the dimensions of aggression, intent to cause harm or distress, power imbalance, and repetition. The relationship of the two behaviors to moral disengagement was also examined. One hundred ninety-nine workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk completed a survey examining their experiences as hazing and bullying victims, perpetrators, and witnesses; they also completed Bandura et al.’s (J Pers Soc Psychol 71:364–374, 1996) moral disengagement scale. Participants were more likely to evaluate bullying than hazing as an act of aggression, as intended to cause harm or distress, and as repetitive in nature. The two behaviors did not differ in perceived power imbalance. Whereas only bullying perpetration positively correlated with moral disengagement, both hazing perpetration and victimization were positively related to moral disengagement. The high prevalence rate of both behaviors highlights the need for prevention and intervention programs.
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College student respondents may have been involved in hazing activities, particularly as a perpetrator, during the time that they were completing the survey. Thus, we used workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to have a less biased perspective on hazing and bullying. In addition, because we were assessing lifetime prevalence rates, our assessments of hazing and bullying were general in nature, as opposed to being limited to a particular setting (e.g., school, work).
For many researchers, aggression is defined as behavior that is intended to cause harm or distress (e.g., Olweus 2013). In the current study, at the outset of the study, we decided to separate participants’ perceptions of whether hazing and bullying were acts of aggression and whether they were intended to cause harm or distress for two reasons. First, some published studies suggest that intent to harm is not always evident or easy to recognize in bullying (Coyne 2017; Einarsen et al. 2011). Second, particularly with hazing, while many might suggest that hazing is an aggressive act, they may be less inclined to say that it was intended to harm others.
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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Kowalski, R.M., Foster, M., Scarborough, M. et al. Hazing, Bullying, and Moral Disengagement. Int Journal of Bullying Prevention 3, 159–167 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42380-020-00070-7