Warm relationship between students and teachers can be linked to decreased bullying

Warm and caring student-teacher relationships can be linked to students’ motivation to intervene in cases of bullying. Behind those who remain passive bystanders or accomplices to bullying there is often a conflict-filled situation between the student and the teacher. This has been shown in a new study recently published by psychologist Tomas Jungert from Lund University, Sweden.

Between 4 and 12 per cent of Swedish primary school students are or have been victims of bullying and are therefore at an increased risk of poor psychosocial health. It has been shown that an important way of combating this problem is for other students to intervene rather than remain passive bystanders. Tomas Jungert has studied what motivates some student to step in as saviours, and if there is a way to increase this motivation.

“I focused on the relationship between students and teachers to see how it links to various types of motivation to defend victims of bullying”, says Tomas Jungert, who based his study on 400 Italian school children around the age of 12.

He distinguishes between internal and external motivation. Internal motivation is based on finding it meaningful and satisfying to help others, while external motivation is influenced by praise and other rewards.

The results from Tomas Jungert’s study showed a connection between warm student-teacher relationships and the internal motivation of students to defend victims of bullying.

“It could be a relationship where the teacher tries to be empathetic and get along with the student, rather than to issue threats of punishment”, says Tomas Jungert.

There was, on the other hand, a link between conflicted teacher-student relationships and the students’ external motivation to help victims of bullying but, as it turns out, it is the internal, not the external, motivation that becomes significant in the defence of bullied students. Students driven by an external motivation, on the contrary, are more inclined to remain passive bystanders or even side with the bully when witnessing an act of bullying.

“Those who are driven by external motivation want to receive praise and perhaps increase their status within the group. In a situation of victimisation found in many schools, it is very plausible to assume that many students find it less risky and more profitable to associate with the bully, which is often a person with a lot of power”, says Tomas Jungert.

Tomas Jungert can be reached at +46 (0)705-56 96 25, 046-222 91 17 or tomas.jungert@psy.lu.se

Together with researchers Barbara Piroddi and Robert Thornberg, Thomas Jungert has published the article Early adolescents’ motivation to defend victims in school bullying and their perceptions of student-teacher relationships: A self-determination theory approach. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140197116301233

Cecilia Schubert
International press officer
Email: cecilia.schubert@kommunikation.lu.se

Lund University was founded in 1666 and is regularly ranked as one of the world’s top 100 higher education institutions. The University has 41 000 students and 7 500 staff based in Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö. We are united in our efforts to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.

About Us

Lund University was founded in 1666 and is regularly ranked as one of the world’s top 100 higher education institutions. The University has 41 000 students and 7 500 staff based in Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö. We are united in our efforts to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.

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