A national study by UNH’s Crimes against Children Research Center found that in contrast to previous studies, youth victims of in-person and online harassment and bullying report that in most cases, bystanders tried to help them.
Bystanders are present for the majority of harassment incidents (80 percent). In about 70 percent of these cases, victims report that a bystander tried to make them feel better. Negative bystander reactions, though considerably less frequent, still occurred in nearly a quarter of incidents and were associated with a significantly higher negative impact on the victim.
Lisa Jones, research associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study, noted that “While it is good news that most of the time kids are trying to help victims, it isn’t clear what kinds of support helps them most. Unfortunately, our data show that it is negative behaviors by bystanders such as joining in or laughing that has the biggest impact and really makes things feel worse for victims.”
The research results are reported in the article, “Victim Reports of Bystander Reactions to In-Person and Online Peer Harassment: A National Survey of Adolescents,” in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. In addition to Jones, the article is authored by UNH researchers Kimberly Mitchell and Heather Turner.