Defending victims of bullying in the classroom: The role of moral responsibility and social costs

Simona Carla Silvia Caravita, J. Loes Pouwels, Tirza H.J. Van Noorden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The current study examined the role of moral responsibility (i.e., moral disengagement) and social costs (i.e., prioritizing popularity and classroom norms) in defending victims of bullying in the classroom. Participants were 1362 students (Age 8–15) from 58 classrooms who completed self-reported measures on moral disengagement and prioritizing popularity and peer-reported measures on bullying and defending. We first examined whether the outcome of the cost-benefit analysis with regard to the social costs of defending (i.e., prioritizing popularity) only related to defending among students who did not justify bullying (i.e., low levels of moral disengagement). This hypothesis was supported among boys; multi-level analyses showed that prioritizing popularity was positively associated with defending, but only among boys with low levels of moral disengagement. We also investigated contextual effects by examining how differences in the potential negative social costs of bullying as measured by classroom norms of bullying were related to defending. Girls were more likely to defend in classrooms in which bullying was relatively common than in classrooms in which bullying was relatively uncommon. Boys and girls were more likely to defend in classrooms in which bullies were relatively popular than in classrooms in which bullies were relatively unpopular. We further tested interactions between individual and contextual characteristics. Only among boys, the effect of classroom prestige norms on defending was stronger among boys with lower levels of prioritizing popularity. These findings highlight the importance of considering interactions between moral responsibility and social costs at the individual and classroom level when trying to understand acts of moral courage, such as defending.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)N/A-N/A
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume84
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Defending
  • Moral courage
  • Moral disengagement
  • Popularity
  • Prioritizing popularity

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