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Peer response to bullying conflict : identifying early adolescents’ strategies and goals Rocke Henderson, Natalie

Abstract

The present study investigated the role of peers in bullying and peer harassment situations. Specifically, the strategies students use when exposed to bullying conflict as observers as well as the motivation behind their behavior (or failure to respond) were of interest. In addition to examining whether students have or know about effective strategies for intervening when they are bystanders, the present investigation also looked at links between students' strategies and goals and their perceptions of how difficult it is to respond to bullying. In individual interviews students in grades six and seven (N = 140) were asked to respond to nine hypothetical situations involving three types of bullying (direct physical bullying, direct verbal bullying, indirect relational bullying). For each scenario, students provided ratings of how difficult they thought it would be to respond to each situation and reported what they would say or do (strategy) as well as the desired outcome (goal) for their response for each situation. Results indicated that students were aware of a variety of response strategies, some of which served to encourage bullying. Students endorsed goals that reflected self-serving and antisocial as well as prosocial motivations. Both gender and type of bullying influenced the extent to which certain strategies and goals were endorsed as well as students' perceptions of how difficult it is to deal with bullying as bystanders. Discussion considers the implications of these findings for school-based interventions as well as directions for future research.

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