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Dissertation thesis - The role of bystanders in university students’ perception of different types of bullying

Sociology dissertation / thesis on bullying. The role of bystanders in university students’ perception of different types of bullying. This dissertation explores university students’ perception of three types of bullying, namely physical bullying, verbal bullying and cyberbullying, thus addressing two main gaps in the existing body of literature, which portrays bullying as a phenomenon confined to primary and secondary school students and focuses almost exclusively on perpetrators and victims, thus overlooking the key role played by bystanders in preventing or encouraging bullying. A sample of 83 female participants and 83 male university students participated in this study and their responses were analysed using ANCOVA. After exposing all of them to a number of carefully-designed bullying scenarios, their responses were analysed taking into consideration their gender and empathy levels - which were assessed using the Toronto Empathy Questionnaire (Spreng et al., 2009). Results support the initial hypotheses that 1) university students are more likely to help victims of physical bullying rather than victims of verbal bullying and cyberbullying directly and indirectly, 2) university students are more likely to ignore cyberbullying than physical bullying and verbal bullying, 3) female participants are more likely to help victims of any type of bullying than male participants and 4) bystanders’ empathy affects their attitudes towards bullying. What makes this study an excellent starting point for future research on bullying is the fact that it focuses on a vastly under-researched group, i.e. university students, demonstrating that both gender and empathy affect bystanders’ attitudes towards physical bullying, verbal bullying and cyberbullying.

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