Social Justice Research

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 133–151 | Cite as

Belief in a Just World as a Resource of Victimized Students

  • Matthias Donat
  • Anett Wolgast
  • Claudia Dalbert


In a cross-sectional questionnaire study with N = 2593 German students, aged between 12 and 17 years (M = 14.1, SD = 0.5), we investigated the relation between students’ personal belief in a just world (BJW) and their victimization in bullying situations. According to the just-world theory and research, we expected that the more strongly the students endorsed the personal BJW, the less likely they were to report being victimized by other students. We aimed to extend previous findings that failed to confirm this negative relation by considering students’ personal experience of teacher justice as a possible mediator in this relation, while statistically controlling for sex and school type. We further considered the nested data structure with regard to school classes in our analyses. The results of latent mediation analyses at the individual and group levels showed that the more the students endorsed personal BJW, the more they evaluated their teachers’ behavior toward them personally as being just, and the less likely they were to report that they were bullied. However, the students’ personal experience of teacher justice did not mediate the relation between personal BJW and victimization at the individual or group level when controlled for sex and school type. We discussed the adaptive functions of BJW and implications for future school research and practice.


Bullying Victimization Belief in a just world Teacher justice Structural equation modeling Latent two-level mediation 



We would like to thank Heike Lindemann and teacher trainee students of the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg for helping us to collect the data.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee.

Informed consent

The study was approved by the responsible authority and the school management, and written consent was obtained from the participants and their parents.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational PsychologyMartin Luther University of Halle-WittenbergHalle/SaaleGermany

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