The Role of Bystander Perceptions and School Climate in Influencing Victims' Responses to Bullying: To Retaliate or Seek Support?

  • Lindstrom Johnson S
  • Waasdorp T
  • Debnam K
  • et al.
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In order to reduce aggressive responses to bullying, schools nationwide have begun to implement bullying prevention programs that advise students to tell an adult, walk away, or ask the bully to stop. While previous work has demonstrated that individual differences (e.g., gender) influence the likelihood of students choosing assertive responses in lieu of aggressive responses, there has been less research on understanding how aspects of the school climate affect students’ responses to bullying. This study explores how perceptions of teacher and student intervention as well as perceptions of school safety and connectedness influence students’ likelihood of responding aggressively (i.e., retaliating) or seeking support from an adult. These data come from an online school climate survey administered to 25,308 students in 58 high schools. Three-level hierarchical linear modeling was conducted on a subset of 6,493 students who reported being bullied in the past year. Results suggest that bystander perceptions and school climate play a role in influencing students’ responses to bullying, both by decreasing the likelihood of victims using an aggressive response and increasing their likelihood of seeking support from school staff. Interventions that focus more holistically on changing school climate may better interrupt the cycle of violence.




Lindstrom Johnson, S., Waasdorp, T. E., Debnam, K., & Bradshaw, C. P. (2013). The Role of Bystander Perceptions and School Climate in Influencing Victims’ Responses to Bullying: To Retaliate or Seek Support? Journal of Criminology, 2013, 1–10.

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