The Role of Individual and Collective Moral Disengagement in Peer Aggression and Bystanding

A Multilevel Analysis

Gianluca Gini*, Tiziana Pozzoli, Kay Bussey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

71 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the relationships between individual and collective moral disengagement and aggression-related behaviors (peer aggression, defending, and passive bystanding) among 918 adolescents (55.8 % boys; Mage = 14.1 years, SD = 1.1). Hierarchical linear modeling showed that, at the individual level, aggressive behavior was significantly explained by both individual moral disengagement and student perceived collective moral disengagement, which was also positively associated with defending. Student perceived collective moral disengagement moderated the link between individual moral disengagement and peer aggression. At the class level, classroom collective moral disengagement explained between-class variability in all the three aggression-related behaviors. These results extend previous research by demonstrating the role of collective moral disengagement at the individual and the class levels and have potential implications for interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-452
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Peer aggression
  • Bullying
  • Defending
  • Bystanders
  • Moral disengagement
  • Class norms

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