Trait anxiety and bystander motivation to defend victims of school bullying

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Introduction: School-based bullying is an omnipresent problem, but is less frequent when bystanders are inclined to defend victims. This makes it important to focus on motivation to intervene in bullying. Methods: 202 students (Mage=16.44 years, 52% boys) from public Swedish high schools participated in a vignette experiment. Students were randomized to one of two vignettes (victim belonging to/not belonging to ingroup). Self-report measures of motivation to defend and trait anxiety were used. Results: Participants reported more autonomous motivation when the victim belonged to the ingroup and more extrinsic motivation when the victim did not belong to the ingroup. Trait anxiety interacted with the manipulation: bystanders high in anxiety reported low levels of autonomous motivation when the victim did not belong to the ingroup and low levels of extrinsic motivation when the victim belonged to the ingroup.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that anti-bullying-programs should focus on how defender motivation is influenced by the way in which victim ingroup status is perceived and address the bystander’s level of anxiety as this interacts with such perceptions.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Psychology


  • Adolescence, school bullying, bystanders, prosocial behavior, trait anxiety
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch