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Youth Reactions to Bullying: Exploring the Factors Associated With Student's Willingness to Intervene

NCJ Number
Journal of School Violence Volume: 18 Issue: 4 Dated: 2019 Pages: 522-535
Elizabeth Bistrong; Jessika H. Bottiani; Catherine P. Bradshaw
Date Published
14 pages

The purpose of this study was to identify factors related to adolescent responses to witnessing bullying, drawing upon school climate survey data reported by 57,314 middle and high school students.


The response patterns of youth who witness bullying have potential to influence future occurrence and persistence of bullying behaviors. Prevention efforts have included an increased focus on bystander interventions; however, most adolescents rarely intervene in bullying situations. When they do, they often display a mixed pattern of behaviors. In the current study logistic regression analyses demonstrated higher odds of bully assisting behavior among those with higher externalizing symptoms and higher odds of defending the targets among those with elevated internalizing symptoms. Prior victimization was associated with higher odds of all bystander behavioral response types. These findings highlight the salient role of youth's prior victimization and mental health in their responses to witnessing bullying. Implications for bystander-focused bullying prevention efforts are considered. (publisher abstract modified)