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Keywords:

  • third parties;
  • barroom aggression;
  • hierarchical linear models

Abstract

This study examines the effect of situational variables on whether third parties intervene in conflicts in barroom settings, and whether they are aggressive or not when they intervene. Based on research on bystander intervention in emergencies, we hypothesized that third parties would be most likely to become involved in incidents with features that convey greater danger of serious harm. The situational variables indicative of danger were severity of aggression, whether the aggression was one-sided or mutual, gender, and level of intoxication of the initial participants in the conflict. Analyses consist of cross-tabulations and three-level Hierarchical Logistic Models (with bar, evening, and incidents as levels) for 860 incidents of verbal and physical aggression from 503 nights of observation in 87 large bars and clubs in Toronto, Canada. Third party involvement was more likely during incidents in which: (1) the aggression was more severe; (2) the aggression was mutual (vs. one-sided) aggression; (3) only males (vs. mixed gender) were involved; and (4) participants were more intoxicated. These incident characteristics were stronger predictors of non-aggressive third party involvement than aggressive third party involvement. The findings suggest that third parties are indeed responding to the perceived danger of serious harm. Improving our knowledge about this aspect of aggressive incidents is valuable for developing prevention and intervention approaches designed to reduce aggression in bars and other locations. Aggr. Behav. 39:257–268, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.