The development of bystander intentions and social-moral reasoning about intergroup verbal aggression

Palmer, Sally B.; Rutland, Adam and Cameron, Lindsey. 2015. The development of bystander intentions and social-moral reasoning about intergroup verbal aggression. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 33(4), pp. 419-433. ISSN 0261510X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

A developmental intergroup approach was taken to examine the development of prosocial bystander intentions among children and adolescents. Participants as bystanders (N = 260) aged 8–10 and 13–15 years were presented with scenarios of direct aggression between individuals from different social groups (i.e., intergroup verbal aggression). These situations involved either an ingroup aggressor and an outgroup victim or an outgroup aggressor and an ingroup victim. This study focussed on the role of intergroup factors (group membership, ingroup identification, group norms, and social–moral reasoning) in the development of prosocial bystander intentions. Findings showed that prosocial bystander intentions declined with age. This effect was partially mediated by the ingroup norm to intervene and perceived severity of the verbal aggression. However, a moderated mediation analysis showed that only when the victim was an ingroup member and the aggressor an outgroup member did participants become more likely with age to report prosocial bystander intentions due to increased ingroup identification. Results also showed that younger children focussed on moral concerns and adolescents focussed more on psychological concerns when reasoning about their bystander intention. These novel findings help explain the developmental decline in prosocial bystander intentions from middle childhood into early adolescence when observing direct intergroup aggression.

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The authors would like to acknowledge that this research was funded, in part, by the Economic and Social Research Council (South East DTC), Grant ES/J500148/1.

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November 2015Published
21 April 2015Accepted

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Date Deposited:

24 Jan 2017 11:30

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:23

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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