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Br J Educ Psychol. 2010 Jun;80(Pt 2):183-98. doi: 10.1348/000709909X479105. Epub 2009 Nov 21.

The association between adolescents' beliefs in a just world and their attitudes to victims of bullying.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Keele, UK.



Research which has investigated children's attitudes to bullying has found that the majority of children display anti-bullying attitudes. However, a small minority of children do appear to admire the bully and lack sympathy for victims of bullying. The just world belief theory has received a great deal of attention in recent years with evidence emerging in support of a two-dimensional model distinguishing between beliefs in a just world (BJW) for self and BJW for others. BJW-self (and not BJW-others) has been found to uniquely predict psychological well-being, whereas BJW-others (and not BJW-self) uniquely predicts harsh social attitudes and derogation of victims.


The aim of the present study was to measure BJW-self and others in a sample of UK secondary schoolchildren and to see whether BJW-others can account for adolescents' negative attitudes towards victims of bullying.


In total, 346 pupils aged 11-16 years of age (270 males, 76 females) from two schools took part in the study.


The participants completed measures of BJW-self and others, attitudes to victims of bullying, empathy, and self-esteem on a whole class basis.


It was found that BJW-others uniquely predicted adolescents' attitudes to victims but in the opposite direction to that which was predicted - high BJW were associated with stronger anti-bullying attitudes. As predicted, BJW-self (but not BJW-others) was positively and uniquely correlated with self-esteem.


The findings are discussed in the context of research which has found that the direction of the relationship between BJW-others and derogation of victims appears to depend on the nature of the injustice, with people with strong BJW less tolerant of severe injustices.

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