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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social problem-solving and emotion processes among early adolescent bystanders in hypothetical bullying situations Rocke Henderson, Natalie Anne


In an effort to understand bystander behavior, the purpose of this study was to examine the role of emotions and peer relationships on early adolescent bystanders’ social problem-solving. Students in grades 6 and 7 (N = 349) read a series of hypothetical bullying vignettes and were asked to imagine that what happens to the victim in each vignette happens to a self-nominated friend or non-friend. Students were then asked about their feelings (i.e., initial emotion, initial emotional display, level of emotion, intention to dissemble), strategies, and goals. Research questions considered links between strategies and goals, whether social problem-solving and emotion processes varied as a function of gender and friendship status with the victim, and links between social problem-solving and emotion processes. Results of canonical correlation showed that bystanders who endorsed strategies likely to perpetuate bullying were less motivated to pursue goals aimed at assisting the victim, giving higher ratings instead to self-focused and anti-social goals. With few exceptions, a series of 2 X 2 (gender [boys, girls] X friendship status [friend versus non-friend]) repeated measures analyses of variance (ANOVA) highlighted that bystanders’ strategies and goals varied as a function of gender and friendship status with the victim. Girls generally favored prosocial strategies and goals more than boys; intervention was more likely on behalf of friends. A series of gender X friendship status repeated measures ANOVAs examining bystanders’ emotion processes showed that friendship status was important. For instance, bystanders indicated that they would experience more anger and would be more willing to show their anger in a hypothetical bullying situation involving a bullied friend. Finally, results of a series of hierarchical multiple regressions showed that the degree to which bystanders thought they would experience different emotions emerged as a strong predictor of individual strategies and goals in hypothetical situations, particularly when the situation involved a non-friend. Findings highlight the importance of emotions, peer relationships, and gender as related to bystander social problem-solving in hypothetical situations with implications for increasing peer intervention.

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