The influence of norms and social identities on children's responses to bullying


Correspondence should be addressed to Siân Jones, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK (e-mail:


Background. Research on bullying increasingly focuses on social processes, showing that group membership affects children's responses to bullying scenarios. Additionally, correlational research has shown links between norms of cooperation and prosocial behaviour, and between competition and more aggressive forms of behaviour.

Aims. This paper focuses on how children's peer group membership affects their group-based emotions in response to an intergroup bullying incident, and the action tendencies that these emotions predict, in the context of different background norms (for competitive or cooperative behaviour).

Sample. Italian schoolchildren, 10–13 years old (N= 128, 65 males) took part in this study.

Methods. Participants were randomly assigned to the group of a perpetrator, target, or third-party group member described in a scenario. Next, they played a game designed to induce a cooperative, competitive, or neutral norm, and read the scenario. They then answered a questionnaire measuring their group-based emotions.

Results. Results underscored the role of norms and group processes in responses to bullying. In particular, children exposed to a cooperative norm expressed less pride and more regret and anger about the bullying than those in other conditions.

Conclusions. This study indicates that the influence peer groups have on bullying may be tempered by the introduction of a cooperative normative context to the school setting.