Bullying and Social Dilemmas: The Role of Social Context in Anti-Social Behaviour

  • Amelia Kohm

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Research and interventions concerning anti-social behaviour have neglected the bad behaviour of “good” people or those who typically behave pro-socially. Additionally, past and current research and practice in this area have often neglected how factors in one’s current environment influence behaviour. Instead, the focus has been on how individual characteristics—borne of the interplay of genetic composition and environmental influences over time—result in anti-social behaviour. However, evidence suggests immediate contexts can foster even atypical behaviour, behavior not correlated with genetic and long-term environmental influences. The thesis is presented in four parts. Part One introduces the idea that immediate group context can have a significant effect on anti-social behaviour, particularly that of “good” people. Part Two reviews research on the impact of social dynamics on behaviour. Part Three presents the empirical study on the role of a particular group dynamic, social dilemmas, in relation to a specific type of anti-social behaviour, bullying. Finally, Part Four considers the implications of the thesis for future research and practice. Social dilemmas are situations in which individual motives are at odds with the best interests of the group and help to explain why individuals sometimes make anti-social decisions. The study at the core of this thesis tested two hypotheses: 1) both individual and group factors are associated with behaviour in bullying situations; and 2) attitudes, group norms, and social dilemmas each have a unique contribution to predicting behaviour in bullying situations. Participants were 292 middle school students at a residential school in the U.S., and data were analysed using multi-level modelling. The primary findings were, in general, consistent with the two hypotheses. The research suggests that social dilemma dynamics might be an important group factor in predicting behaviour in bullying situations.
Date of Award1 Sept 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorBarbra Teater (Supervisor)


  • bullying
  • social dilemmas
  • social context
  • peer relations

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