Morally Disengaged and Unempathic: Do Cyberbullies Fit These Definitions? An Exploratory Study

  • Renati R
  • Berrone C
  • Zanetti M
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In recent years, the phenomenon of cyberbullying has been gaining scholars' growing interest under various aspects, including its overlap with face-to-face bullying. Nevertheless, its relationships with cognitive and affective empathy, proactive and reactive aggression, and moral disengagement, constructs that proved to be crucial in distinguishing aggressive subjects from their targets and nonaggressive peers in traditional bullying, still represent, to some extent, an unexplored domain. The main purpose of the present exploratory study was to investigate the associations between cyberbullying and the mentioned constructs among Italian adolescents. 819 high-school students (mean age 16.08) were administered a battery of standardized tools, along with Cyberties, a new instrument created to assess the prevalence of (and the type of involvement in) different forms of electronic assaults. Analyses of variance were conducted to compare four roles ("pure" bullies, "pure" victims, bully victims, and noninvolved subjects). Participants who identified themselves as cyberbullies or cyberbully victims showed significantly higher levels of overall moral disengagement and of both types of aggression. Cyberbullies also displayed a lack of affective empathy. Our findings are in line with the ones in extant literature about correlates of traditional and electronic forms of bullying. Implications for prevention strategies are discussed.

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  • Roberta Renati

  • Carlo Berrone

  • Maria Assunta Zanetti

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