Kids helping kids: the influence of situational factors on peer intervention in middle school bullying Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Siegel, Natalie M.
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • Bullying significantly impacts the social-emotional health of all students in school. Much research has focused on the bullies and their victims. Unfortunately, we know little about the reactions of peers who witness bullying, known as bystanders. Bystanders have immense power to intervene and effectively stop bullying; yet, few children actually do so. To help prevent bullying, we need to determine what factors are related to peer intervention in bullying. Numerous studies have suggested that empathy is related to prosocial behavior in children in a variety of situations; yet, bullying situations remain relatively unexplored in the literature. The purpose of this dissertation was to contribute to the literature by examining the relation between situational empathy and peer intervention when witnessing bullying. Other theoretically important factors like type of bullying and gender were also examined. Accordingly, the three research questions answered in this study were the following: (1) Does witnessing bullying elicit empathy towards victims of bullying? (2) What peer intervention strategies do middle-school students report when they witness bullying? (3) Do empathy and gender predict reported peer intervention? iv A total of 265 middle-school students participated in this study. Participants completed self-report surveys on involvement in bullying and social desirability. Next, participants watched vignettes of physical and relational bullying and after each clip were asked how they felt and why, how the victim felt and why, and what they would do if they had witnessed it. Responses were coded using the Empathy Continuum Scoring System (Strayer & von Rossberg-Gempton, 1992). Consistent with hypotheses, results suggested that (1) children were more likely to intervene in physical bullying than relational bullying; (2) children reported instrumental intervention strategies most frequently in both bullying situations, and (3) both empathy and gender significantly contribute to children’s intervention behavior similarly for both bullying situations. Gender findings were that girls were more likely to help overall; while boys and girls responded similarly to physical bullying, they responded very differently to relational bullying. Limitations of the present dissertation and implications for practice are discussed.
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  • Song, Samuel Young
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