Mayhew, M. J., M. A. Lo, L. S. Dahl, and B. S. Selznick. 2018. “Assessing Students’ Intention to Intervene in a Bystander Situation.” Journal of College Student Development 59 (6), 762–768.
The purpose of this study was to introduce and test an instrument designed to assess students’ intention to intervene in bystander situations related to sexual and partner violence. The authors grounded the development of their instrument in the social-ecological model of violence, developed by Dahlberg and Krug (2002), and Latané and Darley’s (1970) decision model of helping. By combining environmental and contextual considerations with cognitive processes, the scenario-based instrument is intended to fill a gap in current measures of bystander intervention by college students. The instrument uses multiple scenarios and possible behavioral responses to measure students’ intention to intervene along the continuum of sexual and partner violence while also considering multiple perspectives and relationships to those involved.
DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS
Subsequent research (see Dahl 2019) using this measure assessed the scenarios in which students were most likely to intervene. Students were most likely to intervene in the party scenario in which the student was a friend of the woman under duress. Students were the least likely to intervene in the party scenario where they did not know either the man or the woman.
IMPLICATIONS FOR ACTION BY CAMPUS LEADERS
This instrument offers another vehicle for the assessment of students’ likelihood to intervene as bystanders in situations involving possible sexual and partner violence beyond attitudes toward rape, willingness to intervene, and past intervening behaviors. When designing educational programs for faculty members, staff, and students, campus leaders should consider the present barriers to intervention in these situations, including the potential bystander’s relationship to the victim and/or the perpetrator, diffusion of responsibility, pluralistic ignorance (when unaware, inactive bystanders look to other unaware, inactive bystanders for cues on how to react and all subsequently fail to identify the situation as one requiring intervention), a bystander’s self-perception of his or her helping ability and potential for intervention in the situation, and ambiguity of the situation. These hurdles influence bystanders’ attitudes toward intervening, as well as their perception of social pressure and the degree of difficulty associated with interventional behaviors.
About the Authors
Matthew J. Mayhew is William Ray and Marie Adamson Flesher Professor in Educational Administration at the Ohio State University.
Marc A. Lo is director of the Penn First Plus Office at the University of Pennsylvania.
Laura S. Dahl is a doctoral candidate in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at the Ohio State University.
Benjamin S. Selznick is an assistant professor in the School of Strategic Leadership Studies at James Madison University.
Literature Readers May Wish to Consult
Dahl, L. S. 2019. “How Do We Know Someone Will Intervene? The Validation of a Survey Instrument Designed to Measure Collegiate Bystander Intervention Disposition.” PhD Dissertation. The Ohio State University.
Dahlberg, L. L., and E. G. Krug. 2002. “Violence—A Global Public Health Problem.” In World Report on Violence and Health, edited by E. G. Krug, L. L. Dahlberg, J. A. Mercy, A. B. Zwi, and R. Lozano, 1–21. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
Latané, B., and J. M. Darley. 1970. The Unresponsive Bystander: Why Doesn’t He Help? Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Mayhew, M. J., R. J. Caldwell, and E. G. Goldman. 2011. “Defining Campus Violence: A Phenomenological Analysis of Community Stakeholder Perspectives.” Journal of College Student Development 52: 253–269.