Moral Disengagement Resources

Moral Disengagement Resources

Moral disengagement resources from Dr. Caravita

Posted on 2011-08-03

Below are the references, abstracts, and pdfs of two articles from Dr. Caravita:

Caravita S., Di Blasico, P., & Salmivalli, C. (2009). Unique and interactive effects of empathy and social status on involvement in bullying. Social Development, 18, 140-163.


This study investigated the relationships between affective and cognitive empathy, social preference and perceived popularity, and involvement in bullying situations by bullying others or defending the victimized children. The participants were 266 primary and 195 secondary school students. Affective and cognitive empathy, as well as the status variables, had some significant main effects on involvement in bullying. In addition, several interaction effects emerged. For instance, the positive association between affective empathy and defending behavior was stronger among boys who had a high status (i.e., were highly preferred) in the group. The results highlight the importance of studying child-by-environment models, which take into account both child characteristics and interpersonal variables in predicting social adjustment.

Caravita, C., Di Blasio, P., & Salmivalli, C. (2010). Early adolescents' participation in bullying: Is ToM involved? Journal of Early Adolescence, 30, 138-170.


The present study investigated the role of theory of mind (ToM) skills in three forms of involvement in bullying: ringleader bullying, defending the victim(s), and victimization. Individual (affective empathy) and interpersonal variables (social preference and perceived popularity) were assumed to moderate the associations between ToM and the ways of being involved in bullying. Moderation effects by gender were also explored. Participants were 211 primary school pupils (average age = 10 years and 2 months, SD = 6 months), who took part in a ToM interview and filled in self- and peer-report questionnaires on empathy, social status, and involvement in bullying. ToM skills were positively linked to defending, and among boys this association was further strengthened by social preference. Practical implications include the need to focus on both peer relationships (i.e., status) and emotional characteristics (i.e., empathy) when trying to motivate youth with good cognitive skills to actively defend their victimized classmates.

Research on Aggression and Moral Attributinos from Dr. Malti

Posted on 2011-04-19

Below is the reference and abstract for an article on aggression and moral attributions. Interested readers should contact Dr. Malti at for more information.

Malti, T., Gasser, L., & Buchmann, M. (2009). Aggressive and prosocial children's emotino attributions and moral reasoning. Aggressive Behavior, 35, 90-102.


Abstract Aggressive and prosocial children's emotion attributions and moral reasoning were investigated. Participants were 235 kindergarten children (M=6.2 years) and 136 elementary-school children (M=7.6 years) who were selected as aggressive or prosocial based on (kindergarten) teacher ratings. The children were asked to evaluate hypothetical rule violations, attribute emotions they would feel in the role of the victimizer, and justify their responses. Compared with younger prosocial children, younger aggressive children attributed fewer negative emotions and were more likely to provide sanction-oriented justifications when evaluating rule violations negatively. Furthermore, age-, gender- and context-effects in moral development occurred. The context-effects included both effects of transgression type (i.e., prosocial morality vs. fairness) on emotion attributions and moral reasoning and the effects of the context of moral evaluation and emotion attribution on moral reasoning. Findings are discussed in terms of the role of emotion attributions and moral reasoning as antecedents of children's aggressive and prosocial behavior.

Cyberbullying and Morality Poster

Posted on 2011-04-14

Sonja Perren and Fabio Sticca presented a poster at the 2011 SRCD meeting entitledBullying and Morality: Are there Differences between Traditional Bullies and Cyberbullies? You can view the poster by clicking here.

Moral Disengagement Materials from Dr. Menesini

Posted on 2011-04-11

Below are the references and abstracts for several articles on bullying and moral disengagement form Dr. Menesini. Interested researchers should contact the author at

Menesini, E. & Camodeca, M. (2008). Shame and guilt as behaviour regulators: Relationships with bullying, victimization and prosocial behaviour. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 26, 183-196.


This study aimed at investigating intentional and non-intentional situations eliciting shame and guilt in relation to children’s involvement in bullying, victimization and prosocial behaviour. We used the contextual model designed by Olthof, Schouten, Kuiper, Stegge, and Jennekens-Schinkel (2000) according to which certain situations elicit more shame than guilt (‘shame-only’, SO), whereas others elicit both guilt and shame (‘shame-and-guilt’, SAG). Besides these, four new scenarios were added (2 SO and 2 SAG) in which the protagonist was alternatively the perpetrator or the receiver of harm. Participants were 121 children aged 9–11, who filled in the self-report Shame and Guilt Questionnaire, and a peer nomination survey to investigate the roles of bully, victim, prosocial and not involved. Results showed that in SAG situations, perpetratedharm situations elicited more guilt than neutral situations; while in SO situations, neutral situations elicited more shame than received-harm situations. In SAG situations, prosocial children reported feeling more ashamed and guilty than bullies and notinvolved children, while in SO situations, victims scored higher on shame than notinvolved children. Results are discussed considering the contextual model employed and the relationship between emotions and behaviours.

Menesini, E., Nocentini, A., & Camodeca, M. Morality, values, traditional bullying and cyberbullying in adolescence.


The aim of the present study was to investigate moral aspects and human values in traditional bullying and cyberbullying, in order to detect differences among the two types of bullying and to test the role of lack of morality in mediating the relationships between personal values and involvement in bullying. Sample comprised 390 14-18 aged adolescents, balanced for gender, attending different high schools. Tradional and cyberbullying were detected by means of two selfreport measures, while the Portrait Values Questionnaire was used to assess ten values in four dimensions according to the value system model by Schwartz (1992): self-trascendence, selfenhancement, openness to change and conservation. Finally, lack of morality was assessed by means of five items about emotional, behavioural and personal aspects salient for morality. Results showed that, irrespective of gender, self-enhancement and self-trascendence moderately predicted cyber and tradional bullying, respectively, while lack of morality predicted both. Indirect effects showed that self-enhancement and openness to change predicted both forms of bullying through lack of morality. Results are discussed in terms of similarities and differences between cyber and traditional bullying and with attention to the central role of morality in explaining bullying nature.

Moral Disengagement Materials from Simona Caravita

Posted on 2011-04-07

Below are the titles for a series of slides and articles on bullying and moral disengagement. Please feel free to use the information provided to contact the author(s) for the materials:

Moral Disengagement for Victimization in Bullying: Individual or Contextual Processes?

-Powerpoint slides presented at SRCD 2011

-Contact Simona C. S. Caravita at

Rule Perception or Moral Disengagement? Associations of Moral Cognititon with Bullying and Defending in Late-Childhood and Early-Adolescence

-Powerpoint slides presented at SRA 2010

-Contact Simona C. S. Caravita at or Gianluca Gini

Why Should I Behave in This Way? Rule Discrimination within the School Context Related to Children's Bullying.

-Chapter in Social Development (2009) by Simona Caravita, Sarah Miragoli, & Paola Di Blasio

-Contact Simona C. S. Caravita at

Moral Disengagement Article from Luke Hyde & Colleagues

Posted on 2011-04-07

Luke W. Hyde and colleagues released an article on the role of moral disengagement in the development of antisocial behavior. Interested readers should contact Luke Hyde

The reference and abstract are as follows:

Hyde, L. W., Shaw, D. S., & Moilanen, K. L. (2010). Developmental precursors of moral disengagement and the role of moral disengagement in the development of antisocial behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 197-209.J


The purpose of the study was to advance our understanding of the developmental precursors of Moral Disengagement (MD) and the role of MD in the development of antisocial behavior from early risk among an ethnically diverse sample of 187 low-income boys followed prospectively from ages 1.5 to 17. Results indicated associations between early rejecting parenting, neighborhood impoverishment, and child empathy and later MD. The link between some of these early constructs and later antisocial behavior was mediated by MD. Finally, in an exploratory path model both MD and biases in social information processing were found to mediate separate paths from early risk factors to later antisocial behavior. Results were partially consistent with the notion that adolescent MD was predicted by a combination of early family, neighborhood, and child risk factors, and that MD may be a mechanism underlying some boys' risk of antisocial behavior.

Research on Moral Disengagement and Bullying by Dr. Gini

Posted on 2011-04-07

Below are several references and abstracts on papers relating to moral disengagement and/or bullying from Dr. Gianluca Gini. Readers interested in the materials are encouraged to contact Dr. Gini at

Gini, G. (2006). Social cognition and moral cognition in bullying: What's wrong? Aggressive Behavior, 32, 528-539.


Two different models have been proposed that describe the bully alternatively as a child lacking in social skills [Crick and Dodge, 1994], or as a cold manipulative individual, who leads gangs to achieve personal goals [Sutton et al., 1999a]. The present study examined the performance of 204 8–11-year-olds in a set of stories that assessed understanding of cognitions and emotions, in relation to their Participant Role in bullying. Moreover, children’s understanding of moral emotions and proneness to moral disengagement was assessed. Victims showed some difficulties in the social cognition task, whereas bullies did not. Aggressive children, instead, were found to be more ready to show moral disengagement mechanisms, whereas defenders showed higher levels of moral sensibility. Results are discussed in relation to the two models, and the need for further research into empathy and moral cognition of children involved in bullying episodes is highlighted.

Gini, G. (2007). Who is blameworthy? Social identity and inter-group bullying.School Psychology International28, 77-89.


Using social identity theory (SIT; Tajfel and Turner, 1979) and social identity development theory (SIDT; Nesdale, 1999) as a framework, this study investigated attitudes towards inter-group bullying at school. Preadolescent boys and girls (n = 314) participated in a study, utilizing the short story technique, in which they were induced to identify with their own school-class, whose social status was manipulated to be high or low. A story was told in which the group engaged in an episode of physical bullying as either the bully group or the victim group. The designed out-group was another class of the same school. Attribution of blame to both the in-group and the out-group was assessed. Results showed a higher preference for the in-group when it was the victimized group. Moreover, participants blamed the high status out-group more than any other group. The results are discussed in relation to the literature about bullying and the application of SIT and SIDT to this domain. 

Gini, G. (2008). Italian elementary and middle school students' blaming the victim of bullying and perception of school moral atmosphere. The Elementary School Journal, 108, 335-354.


Tendency to blame the victim of bullying in 9- and 12-year-old Italian students (N 246, 124 boys and 122 girls) was examined by manipulating gender of the victim and type of bullying (direct [physical] vs. indirect [relational]). Children were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 scenarios describing a bullying episode and rated on 5 questions about how much they liked the victim and how much they held the victim responsible for what had happened. We collected data using 2 additional measures: a 12-item self-report scale about bullying and victimization and a school moral atmosphere questionnaire. Overall, boys blamed the victim more than girls, and victim blame was higher for direct rather than indirect bullying. Victim liking was predicted by a positive sense of community, whereas victim blame was predicted by the perception of a negative relational atmosphere within the school. Results are discussed in terms of theoretical and educational implications for researchers and practitioners.

Gini, G., Pozzoli, T., & Hauser, M. (2011). Bullies have enhanced moral competence to judge relative to victims, but lack moral compassion. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 603-608.


Bullying behavior is an immoral action because it humiliates and oppresses innocent victims. Presently unclear is whether bullies bully because of deficiencies in moral competence (knowledge of right and wrong), moral compassion (emotional awareness and conscience concerning moral transgressions), or some combination of these two processes; the same issues arise with respect to victims. We studied a large sample of children (N = 719, 9–13 years) classified as either bullies, victims or defenders to determinewhether individual differences in moral competence and compassion are related to these roles. Relative to victims, both bullies and defenders showed advanced moral competence, integrating information about beliefs and outcomes in judging the moral permissibility of an action; victims showed delayed moral competence, focusing on outcome information alone. Paradoxically, despite the advanced moral competence of bullies, they were woefully deficient with respect to their moral compassion when compared to both victims and defenders. These results parallel a growing body of work on adult psychopaths, suggesting dissociation between the knowledge that guides abstract moral judgments and the factors that mediate morally appropriate behavior and sentiments.

Gini, G., Pozzoli, T., Borghi, F., & Franzoni, L. (2008). The role of bystanders in students' perception of bullying and sense of safety. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 617-638.


Two studies employing a mixed experimental design were conducted to determine if perceptions of bullying, attitudes towards victims, and students' sense of safety at school were influenced by bystanders' reactions to different types of bullying. In Study 1, 217 middle-school children were randomly assigned to read a hypothetical scenario describing a direct bullying episode. In Study 2, 376 primary-school children and 390 middle-school children were presented with scenarios describing a direct bullying episode and an indirect bullying episode. In all scenarios, the bystanders' reactions to the bullying and the gender of the victim were manipulated. Participants endorsed the prosocial behavior in favor of the victims and did not endorse pro-bullying behavior. Furthermore, they perceived passive reactions to the bullying as negative behavior. Participants showed positive attitudes towards victims, which were significantly higher at younger grade levels and among girls. Bystanders' behavior influenced both participants' perceptions of the victims and their perceived sense of safety at school. Implications for anti-bullying programs based upon the group ecology are discussed. 

Gini, G. (2006). Bullying as a social process: The role of group membership in students' perception of inter-group aggression at school. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 51-65.


Bullying is a widespread social phenomenon involving both individual and group variables. The present study was aimed at analyzing how students’ perception of a bullying episode might be influenced by group and context variables. A convenience sample of 455 adolescents read a short story, in which the in-group role (bully vs. victim) and level of teacher likeability (high vs. low) were manipulated. Participants were asked to evaluate their own group and an out-group, in terms of four dependent variables: liking, right to use the basketball court, attribution of blame, and attribution of punishment. Data showed a strong participant in-group bias and a generalized tendency to favor the in-group, especially when it was the victimized group. Conversely, the manipulation of teacher likeability did not affect students’ perception of bullying, except for girls’ attribution of punishment. Lastly, a clear gender effect emerged, in that boys accepted physical bullying more readily than girls did. Results are discussed in terms of group dynamics and preadolescent social identity concerns.

Gini, G., Camodeca, M., Caravita, C. S. C., Yoshizawa, H., & Ohnishi, A. (In press). Cognitive distortions and antisocial behaviour: An European perspective. Bulletin of Konan University, Japan.

Moral Disengagement Articles from Dr. Bauman

Posted on 2011-04-07

 Below are two articles on bullying and/or moral disengagement from Dr. Sheri Bauman. Interested readers should contact her at

Bauman, S. (2009). Cyberbullying in a rural intermediate school: An exploratory study. Journal of early adolescence, 20, 1-31.


Students (N = 221) in an intermediate school (grades 5-8) in a rural area of the Southwestern United States completed a survey regarding their familiarity with technology and their experiences with cyberbullying during the school year. Initial evidence of survey reliability is presented. In the sample, 1.5% of participants were classified as cyberbullies only, 3% as cybervictims only, and 8.6% as cyberbully/victims. Grade and gender differences were investigated. The best predictor of cyberbullying in a regression equation was cybervictimization, and vice versa. Self-blaming attributions predicted emotional distress in response to a cyberbullying scenario; moral disengagement predicted acting out behaviors in response to the same scenario. Implications of the findings are discussed.

Bauman, S., & Pero, H. (2010). Bullying and cyberbullying among deaf students and their hearing peers: An exploratory study. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 16, 236-253.


A questionnaire on bullying and cyberbullying was administered to 30 secondary students (Grades 7–12) in a charter school for the Deaf and hard of hearing and a matched group of 22 hearing students in a charter secondary school on the same campus. Because the sample size was small and distributions non-normal, results are primarily descriptive and correlational. No significant differences by hearing status were detected in rates of conventional or cyberbullying or both forms of victimization. Cyberbullying and cybervictimization were strongly correlated, as were conventional bullying and victimization. Moral disengagement was positively correlated only with conventional bullying. Implications