Moral reasoning and emotion attributions of adolescent bullies, victims, and bully-victims
This study investigated different facets of moral development in bullies, victims, and bully-victims among Swiss adolescents. Extending previous research, we focused on both bullying and victimization in relation to adolescents’ morally disengaged and morally responsible reasoning as well as moral emotion attributions. A total of 516 adolescents aged 12–18 (57% females) reported the frequency of involvement in bullying and victimization. Participants were categorized as bullies (14.3%), bully-victims (3.9%), and victims (9.7%). Moral judgment, moral justifications, and emotion attributions to a hypothetical perpetrator of a moral transgression (relational aggression) were assessed. Bullies showed more morally disengaged reasoning than non-involved students. Bully-victims more frequently indicated that violating moral rules is right. Victims produced more victim-oriented justifications (i.e., more empathy) but fewer moral rules. Among victims, the frequency of morally responsible justifications decreased and the frequency of deviant rules increased with age. The findings are discussed from an integrative moral developmental perspective.