June 07, 2011

"It was THEIR fault!" Bullies' justifications for bullying.

Perren, S., & Sticca, F. (2011). Bullying and morality: Are there differences between traditional bullies and cyberbullies? Poster presentation at Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 31 March-2 April.

This is a summary of research presented at a recent conference, and this means that the results may differ somewhat from any final peer-reviewed article which results from this study.

These authors suggest that it may be easier to ‘morally disengage’ in cyberbullying than in traditional bullying.  Moral disengagement basically means that aggressors will feel less remorse, and the authors suggest that this may be because aggressors usually don’t see the victim’s responses if they use cyber-aggression.

Young German-speaking students completed a self-report survey and were recruited from a ‘large social networking site’. A total of 486 students completed the survey, and they were aged 12-20 years old (47% were female). Moral disengagement and moral responsibility were assessed using both self-report measures and production measures – the latter are measures where the participants read short stories and had to give their own justifications or decisions about responsibility.

Young people classed as cyber-bullies or as traditional bullies reported higher levels of moral disengagement and lower levels of moral responsibility. However, there was no difference between cyber-bullies or traditional bullies. Boys also reported higher levels of moral disengagement and lower levels of moral responsibility.

These results suggest that young people who use bullying behaviours (cyber or traditional) are likely report that they were provoked and that it was not their fault that they acted aggressively. This in turn may suggest that bullies require help identifying the causes of their own behaviour and help to take more responsibility for their own actions.

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