Personal Attitudes and Social Norms Related to Willingness to Intervene in Peer Victimization
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Bullying and sexual harassment are highly prevalent in schools today and recognized as a significant public health concern. Bullying and sexual harassment have both immediate and long-term consequences for those involved, impacting mental health, school, and relationships. Most research has focused on perpetrators and victims; however, researchers have also noted the importance of bystanders in these situations. Conceptualizing bullying and sexual harassment from a social ecological perspective, individual attitudes as well as social factors, such as perceived attitudes and behaviors of others, are important considerations. Although bystanders are aware of bullying the majority of the time, most do nothing about it despite feeling disgust and possessing a desire to intervene in the peer victimization. Therefore, understanding influences on individuals’ willingness to intervene is essential. The current study assessed personal norms related to bullying and sexual harassment attitudes, as well as perceived peer attitudes and their association with personal willingness to intervene in peer victimization in a sample of 657 high school students. Participants rated themselves as having significantly more prosocial attitudes than their peers. In addition, personal attitudes, perceived peer attitudes, and perceived teacher and peer willingness to intervene were all associated significantly with individual willingness to intervene. Specifically, when respondents reported having more prosocial personal attitudes and perceived peers to be more prosocial, they were more likely to report willingness to intervene. In addition, perceiving peers and teachers as being more likely to intervene was also associated with greater personal willingness. Personal attitudes were the strongest predictor of willingness to intervene in bullying. Limitations of the study, implications for practice, and future research directions are discussed.