Bullying and exclusion in intergroup contexts: The relation between social reasoning, social information processing, and personal experience
Margie, Nancy Rawle Geyelin
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As many as 77% of children and young adolescents are bullied (Hoover, Oliver, & Hazler, 1992), with short- and long-term negative consequences for victims and victimizers (Hawker & Boulton, 2000). While physical bullying is the most visible method, exclusion is used frequently to bully (Seals & Young, 2003). Despite a strong theoretical link indicating that bullying falls squarely in the moral domain (Killen & Nucci, 1995; Smetana, 2006; Turiel, 1983; Wolke, Woods, Stanford, & Schulz, 2001), few studies have examined how children evaluate bullying from a moral perspective. Additionally, how moral reasoning is related to experiences with bullying has not been empirically tested, although theoretical work suggests that the two are influenced by social information processing (SIP; Arsenio & Lemerise, 2004). Race/ethnicity may also influence evaluations of bullying. Little research has examined race/ethnicity as it pertains to bullying, however, except to determine prevalence rates (Hanish & Guerra, 2000). While studies have found that race/ethnicity affects moral reasoning and decision-making (Dovidio & Gaertner, 1998; Lawrence, 1991; Margie, Killen, Sinno, & McGlothlin, 2005), race/ethnicity's impact on reasoning about bullying, especially exclusion as a form of bullying, is unknown. The current study surveyed 265 European-American 6th and 9th grade boys and girls to examine the relation between children's social reasoning (SR), SIP, and personal experiences with bullying, and how children's SR and SIP is affected by the race/ethnicity of those involved. The survey assessed judgments, justifications, intent attributions, social goals, and response selection in same-race and cross-race peer interactions (European-American and African-American), and assessed personal bullying experiences. Children with more bullying experience rated bullies' actions less wrong; were more likely to justify the bully's action by blaming the victim and less likely to consider the victim's feelings; attributed more hostile intent; chose more aggressive and less assertive responses; and chose more aggressive and less relational goals for victims. Participants were more likely to attribute aggressive goals to bullies and select aggressive goals for victims in same-race than in cross-race situations. Aggressive victim goals and aggressive responses partially mediated the relation between bullying experience and judgments, blaming victim justification, and victim's feelings justification.