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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The social facilitation of bullying : a multilevel analysis Shumka, Ellen


It is well documented that bullying is harmful and relatively common among children and adolescents. Children report understanding that bullying is wrong, yet bullying continues to be a persistent problem in schools. The goal of the present study was to examine whether children’s bullying behaviours were socially facilitated by group norms and beliefs. Children’s justifications and rationalizations for engaging in wrongful behaviour, a phenomenon referred to as moral disengagement (MD), have been linked to bullying behaviour at the individual level. Specifically, children who report engaging in bulling tend to report more MD than those who do not. Only one study to date, however, has examined MD at the group level and results indicated that group levels of MD, over and above individual levels, predicted engagement in bullying. Group level processes, especially group norms supporting aggression and bullying, have also been linked to greater bullying perpetration. The current investigation extended this research by examining how group levels of MD and normative beliefs about deviancy influenced bullying using two unique samples of schoolchildren. The first study examined the influence of two group level variables (MD and normative beliefs about deviancy) on bullying over a school year in a sample of 376 students (surveyed in Grade 5 and 6) from 38 schools in Southern Ontario. The second study examined the influence of group MD on 1128 students across 74 classrooms in Vancouver, British Columbia. Results across both studies did not support the hypothesis that group levels of MD (Study 1 & 2) and normative beliefs about deviancy (Study 1 only) influenced engagement in bullying. The findings suggest that further investigations are required in order to better understand the effects group level MD and normative beliefs on bullying behaviour.

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