Evidence from past years has documented that group factors, such as group norms, are related to bullying in schools. Studies have revealed that groups’ bullying norms positively predicted individuals’ bullying behaviors. However, the mechanism underlying this phenomenon remains unclear. Studies have documented that peer pressure mediates the relationship between bullying norms among friends and cyber bullying. Moreover, when conflict is inevitable, fear leads to aggressive behavior. Therefore, the current research included two studies to clarify the relationship between classroom bullying norms and bullying behavior.
In the first study, a scenario-based experiment was conducted. A total of 89 male and 97 female primary school students in grades 4 through 6 were invited to participate in the study. Participants were randomly divided into the bullying norm priming group and the control group. After priming, participants in both groups completed the questionnaires addressing fear induced by group identity, peer pressure, and bullying behavior. Students from 23 classes were invited to participate in Study 2. A total of 459 males and 422 females (62 were lacking gender data) from grades 4, 5, 6, and 8 completed the questionnaires on classroom bullying norms, peer pressure, and bullying behavior. HLM version 7.0 was used for the hierarchical linear model.
The results of Study 1 showed that (1) participants in the bullying-norm priming group showed higher levels of bullying behavior, peer pressure, and fear induced by group identity than those in the control group; (2) fear induced by group identity and peer pressure was positively associated with bullying behavior; (3) after controlling for the effect of gender, peer pressure marginally but significantly mediated the relationship between classroom bullying norms and bullying behavior at the 95% confidence level (β = 0.064, p = 0.063). The result of Study 2 demonstrated that the mediating effect of peer pressure was significant at both the individual and the classroom level, even after controlling for the effect of gender. Specifically, (1) the indirect effect of peer pressure accounted for 22.24% of the total effect at the individual level and (2) the indirect effect of peer pressure accounted for 28.35% of the total effect at the classroom level.
The results of both studies highlighted the mediating role of peer pressure in classroom bullying norms and bullying behavior. The current study is the first to identify this mediating mechanism. The findings of the present study suggest that classroom norms and peer pressure deserve more attention in further prevention and intervention addressing school bullying.
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