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What is the role of peers in bullying?

Some reasons have been suggested to explain why bystanders might be drawn into bullying. It has been suggested that bystanders may be influenced by bullies, especially if the bystander views the bully as someone with qualities to be admired, for example being fearless and strong. This influence will be more powerful if the bystander has feelings of insecurity and does not fit in particularly easily. Also, if it seems that the bully has in some way been rewarded for his/her behaviour, the bystander may be more likely to become involved. Another suggestion for the changing role of the bystander is that as part of a group, the bystander may feel less responsible and less guilty for his/her own actions. Another possibility put forward is that after watching the frequent humiliation of the victim, classmates might come to view him/her negatively and feel less sympathy and less guilt.
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Article details

D Olweus (1999) 'Sweden' in P K Smith and others (editors) 'The Nature of School Bullying: a cross-national perspective', London: Routledge. Click the book graphic to buy this book online.
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Author details

Professor Dan Olweus was the first person to carry out a thorough research project on Professor Dan Olweusbullying. This large, long term study which began in Sweden in 1970, was to provide the inspiration for many who felt that bullying in schools should be challenged rather than accepted. Since the 1970s, his work in this area had continued with force. Indeed, in 1997-99, he led a group in a large project which introduced the widely respected Olweus (anti-bullying) programme to schools in Norway. Professor Olweus is based at the Research Centre for Health Promotion, University of Bergen in Norway and can be contacted by email.
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