To Intervene or Not Intervene? That Is the Question: Bystanders in the Bullying Dynamic

  • Paul R. Smokowski
  • Caroline B. R. Evans


Bystanders are individuals who witness a bullying episode but are not directly involved as a bully or victim. Bystanders engage in three basic behaviors: (1) negative bystanders—They support the bully either with verbal encouragement or by actually engaging in the bullying; (2) passive bystanders—They do nothing and simply observe the bullying or wait until the bullying has ended and then comfort the victim; or (3) prosocial bystanders—They support the victim by confronting the bully, getting a teacher, or removing the victim from the situation. Recently, the term “upstander” has been used to describe prosocial bystanders. The current chapter provides an overview of prevalence rates of bystander presence and various bystander behavior. A discussion is provided of motivating factors behind bystander responses to bullying including individual psychology, sociometric status/popularity, and situational factors. The impact of witnessing bullying on bystanders is also discussed as well as an overview of how to increase prosocial bystander behavior.


Bullying Upstander Prosocial bystander Negative bystander Passive bystander Bystander 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul R. Smokowski
    • 1
  • Caroline B. R. Evans
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Social WelfareUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Rhode Island CollegeProvidenceUSA

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