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New Approaches to Defender and Outsider Roles in School Bullying


Adolescents’ defender and outsider behaviors in classroom bullying situations, which involve various kinds of participant roles, are likely determined by individual characteristics, social status variables, and classroom/school contextual factors operating simultaneously in the peer ecology. Despite increasing attention in anti-bullying interventions to the group process and participant roles underlying bullying, there is little research on defending behavior that utilizes this�multilevel approach. To comprehend defending behavior, it is necessary to understand both defender and outsider roles. In this dissertation, I refined the traditionally defined defender and outsider roles by modifying measures that have been used for the past 20 years. Then I examined intrapersonal, interpersonal, and contextual factors associated with subtypes of defender and outsider roles simultaneously. In Study 1, using 1373 adolescents (40% girls, Mage: 14 yrs) from 54 classrooms in six middle schools in South Korea, I examined how participant roles are distributed across these classrooms. My dissertation identified six participant roles in Korean middle school classrooms. Moreover, by investigating whether participant roles are associated with social status, I argue that bullying is a group process with a hierarchical structure. In Study 2, I selected 752 defenders and outsiders (54.3% girls) as identified in Study 1. Using latent profile analysis (LPA), I identified subtypes of defender and outsider roles (i.e., assertive defender, comforting defender, sympathetic outsider, indifferent outsider). To better understand the different attributes these role subtypes carried, using multi-method (i.e., peer-ratings, peer nomination, self-ratings) and multilevel multinomial analysis, I investigated how these unique defender and outsider profiles were associated with individual characteristics, social factors, and contextual factors. At the individual level, students with high affective empathy, self-efficacy, and sense of responsibility for intervention were more likely to be assertive defenders, relative to comforting defenders. Furthermore, assertive defenders were perceived as more popular, but less liked by peers, than comforting defenders. On the other hand, students with low perceived responsibility and weaker anti-bullying attitudes were more likely to be both sympathetic and indifferent outsiders. In addition to individual characteristics, the likelihood of being either a sympathetic or indifferent outsider, compared to a comforting defender, was weaker in classrooms where peers’ prosocial norms were high. Results of this dissertation have implications for tailor-made interventions to reduce school bullying and for studying defending behavior in multiple cultural contexts.

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