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Examining Variation in Adolescent Bystanders Responses to Bullying

NCJ Number
School Psychology Review Volume: 47 Issue: 1 Dated: 2018 Pages: 18-33
Tracy E. Waasdorp; Catherine P. Bradshaw
Date Published
16 pages

This study used latent class analysis to examine whether patterns of bystander responses to bullying at school varied as a function of both student- and school-level characteristics.


Data from 18,863 high school students from 58 schools who "ever witnessed bullying" were used to identify five latent classes of bystander behavior. Three of the classes identified paralleled commonly used researcher-identified categories (Passive = 9.7 percent, Defender = 20.4 percent, and Contributor = 3.4 percent). The study also identified two patterns of bystander responses that had not been previously characterized (Limited = 64.8 percent and Inconsistent = 1.7 percent). Multilevel logistic regression models were then used to examine student- and school-level characteristics that differentiated those in the defender class from other bystander classes. Youth in the defender class were more likely to believe that other students intervene with bullying, and they felt a greater connection with school staff compared to youth in all other bystander classes. In addition, gender, normative beliefs about retaliation, and bullying involvement were associated with class membership. Findings indicate that defending bystander responses were relatively low and suggested that school-level contextual factors, youth perceptions of others' bystander behavior, and bullying involvement all inform the understanding of adolescent bystander behavior. (publisher abstract modified)