Bystanders of bullying: Social-cognitive and affective reactions to school bullying and cyberbullying


The Bystander Intervention Model by Latané and Darley (1970) describes the stages necessary for a bystander to intervene in an emergency and can be used to explain bystander behavior in the case of bullying. Social-cognitive and affective reactions to bullying such as empathy with the victim, moral disengagement, feelings of responsibility, defender self-efficacy and outcome expectancy are supposed to determine whether a bystander passes through all stages of the intervention model and are thereby crucial for the behavioral response. These mental reactions were compared between school bullying and cyberbullying in a sample of 486 German students (56% girls, age: M = 12.95) from 28 classes with a newly developed questionnaire covering the five Social-Cognitive and Affective Reactions to Bullying (SCARB) for school context and cyber context separately. Confirmatory factor analysis showed an acceptable fit and internal consistency coefficients were acceptable to good. In line with our hypotheses, for cyberbullying as compared to school bullying students reported higher moral disengagement and lower feelings of responsibility and self-efficacy. However, no significant difference was found for empathy. The level of negative outcome expectations was lower for cyberbullying than for school bullying. Results confirm that the context of bullying matters for the social-cognitive and affective reactions of bystanders.

Bibliographic citation

Knauf, R., Eschenbeck, H., & Hock, M. (2018). Bystanders of bullying: Social-cognitive and affective reactions to school bullying and cyberbullying. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 12(4), article 3. doi:


Shool bullying; cyberbullying; bystander intervention model; empathy; moral disengagement; responsibility; self-efficacy; outcome expectations

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