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What factors influence bystanders of bullying to intervene? AboutKidsHealth reports

Bullying at school usually occurs with peers present. Often, bullying is done in a group, involving not only the bully and the victim, but also bystanders who may reinforce the bully. AboutKidsHealth, leading online Canadian source for children’s health information, reports on factors which can lead bystanders to intervene.

Sometimes bystanders may try not to get involved. Few bystanders actually try to intervene and help the victimized child.

A study by Jenny Isaacs and Rona Milch Novick, reported at the recent Society for Research in Child Development conference in Montreal, examined the factors that might influence bystanders to help their bullied peers.

Isaacs and Milch Novick theorized that if children have observed others engaging in positive bystander behaviour, they may develop negative attitudes about bullying. They may be more likely to come to the aid of victims.

The researchers wondered whether the experience of being bullied previously would lead to stronger anti-bullying attitudes and an increased desire to help other victims. They also wanted to know if teachers’ attitudes affected bystanders” likelihood to intervene in bullying.

In the study, self report questionnaires were distributed to 368 middle school students. The questionnaires assessed adult, peer, and personal responsiveness to bullying, anti-bullying attitudes, victimization, and personal experiences of being supported by peers when victimized. All students were assessed in the fall and then again in the spring.

Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers found that previously being a victim of bullying had no effect on the likelihood of a child to intervene when a peer is being bullied.

On the other hand, children who had previously seen peer bystanders intervening in bullying reported themselves more likely to help another peer being bullied.

Teachers were found to be very important. Children reported that when they saw teachers being aware and responsive to bullying, they themselves were more likely to help victims of bullying.

“Providing children with both adult and peer models for appropriate bystander behaviour may enhance bullying reduction efforts and help create safer school environments,” said the researchers.

Please visit AboutKidsHealth for additional education and children’s health resources or for the original bullying article, go to:

AboutKidsHealth is the leading Canadian online source for trusted child health information, and has a scope and scale that is unique in the world. Developed by SickKids Learning Institute in collaboration with over 300 paediatric health specialists, the site provides parents, children, and community health care providers with evidence-based information about everyday parenting information, health and complex medical conditions, from bystanders in bullying, to how children learn language from Skype. AboutKidsHealth adheres to rigorous quality standards for the creation and review of health information.

Visit to find out more.

For more information, please contact:
Sue Mackay, Communications
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M5G 1X8
Tel: 416-813-5165

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