Attachment and moral disengagement in the phenomenon of bullying: A study on elementary school children

Author/s Lorenza Di Pentima, Sara Ramelli
Publishing Year 2020 Issue 2020/3
Language Italian Pages 33 P. 871-903 File size 314 KB
DOI 10.3280/RIP2020-003005
DOI is like a bar code for intellectual property: to have more infomation click here

Below, you can see the article first page

If you want to buy this article in PDF format, you can do it, following the instructions to buy download credits

Article preview

FrancoAngeli is member of Publishers International Linking Association, Inc (PILA), a not-for-profit association which run the CrossRef service enabling links to and from online scholarly content.

Aim of this study was to analyze the influence of early attachment relationships on the development of cognitive processes concerning moral disengagement and how the latter can represent a mediation variable with aggressive behaviors, with particular reference to the phenomenon of bullying comparing bullies, victims and non-involved. Participants were 199 children, 106 males and 93 females aged between 8 and 11 years (M = 9.39, SD = 0.91), attending the third, fourth and fifth grade classes, in which the presence of bullies, victims and non-involved was detected. Instruments administered were: Peer Nomination (Menesini, 2003) for the roles of bullies, victims and non-involved; the Moral Disengagement Scale for Bullying as for the measurement of the moral disengagement (Gini & Caravita, 2013); and the Separation Anxiety Test (SAT) for the measurement of the mental models of attachment (Attili, 2001). Teachers assessed behavioral patterns by Social Emotional Dimension Scales, SEDS (Ianes & Savelli, 1994). The overall results highlight moral disengagement represents a mediator between insecure attachment and aggressive behavior. In the comparison between bullies, victims and non-involved, the former are not only more frequently insecure, but also report higher scores in moral disengagement and are evaluated as more aggressive by teachers.

Keywords: Attachment, moral disengagement, bullying, school age.

  1. Albert, L.S., & Horowitz, L.M. (2009). Attachment styles and ethical behavior: Their relationship and significance in the marketplace. Journal of Business Ethics, 87, 299-316.
  2. Attili, G. (2001a). Attaccamento e percezione sociale in età prescolare e scolare. In G. Attili, Ansia da separazione e misura dell’attaccamento normale e patologico. Versione modificata e adattamento italiano del Separation Anxiety Test (SAT) di Klagsbrun e Bowlby (pp. 111-122). Milano: Edizioni Unicopli.
  3. Attili, G. (2001b). Ansia da separazione e misura dell’attaccamento normale e patologico. Versione modificata e adattamento italiano del Separation Anxiety Test (SAT) di Klagsbrun e Bowlby. Milano: Edizioni Unicopli.
  4. Attili, G. (2007). Attaccamento e costruzione evoluzionistica della mente. Normalità, patologia, terapia. Milano: Raffaello Cortina Editore.
  5. Attili, G., Vermigli, P., & Felaco, R. (1994). Modelli mentali dell’attaccamento negli adulti e la qualità della relazione madre-bambino. In Attili G. (a cura di), Attaccamento e disadattamento, nucleo monotematico, Età Evolutiva, 47, 110-117.
  6. Attili, G., Vermigli, P., & Roazzi, A. (2010). Children’s social competence, peer status, and the quality of mother-child and father-child relationships. A multidimensional scaling approach. European Psychologist, 15(1), 23-33.
  7. Attili, G., Vermigli, P., & Roazzi, A. (2011). Rearing styles, parents’ attachment mental state, and children’s social abilities: The link to peer acceptance. Child Development Research. DOI: 10.1155/2011/267186
  8. Bafunno, D., & Camodeca, M. (2013). Shame and guilt development in preschoolers: The role of context, audience and individual characteristics. European Journal of Development Psychology, 10, 128-979. DOI: 10.1080/17405629.2013.765796
  9. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundation of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ Prentice-Hall.
  10. Bandura, A. (1999). Moral disengagement in the perpetration of inhumanities. Personality and Social Psychological Review, 3(3), 193-209.
  11. Bandura, A. (2002). Selective moral disengagement in the exercise of moral agency. Journal of Moral Education, 312, 101-119. DOI: 10.1080/0305724022014322
  12. Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G.V., & Pastorelli, C. (1996). Mechanisms of moral disengagement in the exercise of moral agency. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 364-374. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.71.2.364
  13. Bandura, A., Caprara, G.V., Barbaranelli, C., Pastorelli, C., & Regalia, C. (2001). Sociocognitive self-regulatory mechanisms governing transgressive behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(1), 125-135. DOI: 10.1037//0022-3514.80.1.125
  14. Bayer, J., Mundy, L., Stokes, I., Hearps, S.J.C., Allen, N.B., & Patton, G.C. (2018). Bullying, mental health and friendship in Australian primary school children. Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
  15. Bellmore, A.D., Whitkow, M.T., Graham, S., & Juvonen, J. (2004). Beyond the individual: The impact of ethnic context and classroom behavioral norms on victim’s adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 40, 1159-1172. DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.40.6.1159
  16. Boulton, M. J., & Smith, P. K. (1994). Bully/victim problems in middleschool children: Stability, self-perceived competence, peer perceptions and peer acceptance. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12, 315-329.
  17. Bowlby, J. (1944). Forty-four juvenile thieves: Their characters and home life. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 25, 19-52.
  18. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss. Vol. 1: Attachment. London: Hogarth Press, (trad. it. Attaccamento e perdita. Vol. 1: L’attaccamento alla madre. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1972).
  19. Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss. Vol. 2: Separation, anxiety and anger. London: Hogarth Press, (trad. it. Attaccamento e perdita. Vol. 2: La separazione dalla madre. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1975).
  20. Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and loss. Vol. 3: Loss, sadness and depression. London: Hogarth Press, (trad. it. Attaccamento e perdita. Vol. 3: La perdita della madre. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1983).
  21. Brown, S., & Taylor, K. (2008). Bullying, education and earnings: Evidence from the National Child Development Study. Economics of Education Review, 27, 387-401.
  22. Campos, J.J., Frankel, C.B., & Camras, L. (2004). On the nature of emotion regulation. Child Development, 75, 377-394.
  23. Caprara, G. V., Pastorelli, C., & Bandura, A. (1995). La misura del disimpegno morale in età evolutiva. Età Evolutiva, 51, 18-29.
  24. Caravita, S., Sijtsema, J.J., Rambaram, A.J., & Gini, G. (2014). Peer influences on moral disengagement in late childhood and early adolescence. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 43, 193-207.
  25. Card, N.A., Stucky, B.D., Sawalani, G.M., & Little, T.D. (2008). Direct and indirect aggression during childhood and adolescence. A meta-analytic review of gender differences, intercorrelations, and relations to maladjustment. Child Development, 79(5), 1185-1229.
  26. Chugh, D., Kern, M.C., Zhu, Z., & Lee, S. (2014). Withstanding moral disengagement: Attachment security as an ethical intervention. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 51, 88-93.
  27. Copeland, W. E., Wolke, D., Angold, A., & Costello, J. (2013). Adult psychiatric outcomes of bullying and being bullied by peers in childhood and adolescence. JAMA Psychiatry, 70, 422–426.
  28. Denham, S.A. (1994). Mother-child emotional communication and preschoolers’ security of attachment and dependency. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 155, 119–121. DOI: 10.1080/00221325.1994.9914765
  29. Di Pentima, L., & Ramelli, S. (2020). Attaccamento e bullismo: Un confronto tra bulli, vittime, bulli-vittime e non-coinvolti in età scolare. Maltrattamento e abuso all’infanzia, 22(2), 119-145. DOI: 10.3280/MAL2020-002007
  30. Di Pentima, L., Toni, A., & Attili, G (2019). Attaccamento, locus of control e quadri sintomatologici: Differenze per genere ed età in infanzia e adolescenza. Ricerche di Psicologia, 42(2), 251-283. DOI: 10.3280/RIP2019-002003
  31. Di Pentima, L., Toni, A., Schneider, B.H., Tomàs, J.M., Oliver, A., & Attili, G. (2019). Locus of control as a mediator of the association between attachment and childrenʼs mental health. Journal of Genetic Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/00221325.2019.1652557
  32. Farrington, D. P., & Ttofi, M. M. (2011). Bullying as a predictor of offending, violence and later life outcomes. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 21, 90-98.
  33. Fearon, R.P., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J., van Ijzendoon, M.H., & Lapsley, A.M. (2010). The significance of insecure attachment and disorganization in the development of children’s externalizing behavior: A meta-analytic study. Child Development, 81, 435-456.
  34. Gasser, L., & Keller, M. (2009). Are the competent the morally good? Perspective taking and moral motivation of children involved in bullying. Social Development, 18, 798-816.
  35. Gibbs, J.C. (2010). The “right” and moral development. Fundamental themes of Kohlberg’s cognitive developmental approach. In J.C. Gibbs (Ed.), Moral development and reality: Beyond the theories of Kohlberg, Hoffman, and Haidt. New York: Oxford University Press.
  36. Gillath, O., Sesko, A.K., Shaver, P.R., & Chun, D.S. (2010). Attachment, authenticity, and honesty: Dispositional and experimentally induced security can reduce self- and other-deception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 841-855.
  37. Gillath, O., Shaver, P.R., Mikulincer, M., Nitzberg, R.E., Erez, A., & van Ijzendoorn, M. (2005). Attachment, caregiving, and volunteering: Placing volunteerism in an attachment-theoretical framework. Personal Relationships, 12, 425-446.
  38. Gini, G. (2006). Social cognition and moral cognition in bullying: What’s wrong? Aggressive Behavior, 32, 528-539.
  39. Gini, G., & Caravita, S. (2013). Competenza sociale come pensiero morale: Il disimpegno morale in età evolutiva. In S. Caravita & B. Colombo (a cura di), Misurazione e potenziamento delle competenze socio-cognitive (pp. 239-259). Milano: Unicopli.
  40. Gini, G., & Pozzoli, T. (2009). Association between bullying and psychosomatic problems: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 123, 1059-1065.
  41. Gini, G., Pozzoli, T., & Hymel, S. (2014). Moral disengagement among children and youth: A meta-analytic review of links to aggressive behavior. Aggressive Behaviors, 40, 56-68.
  42. Groh, A.M., Fearon, R.P., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J., van IJzendoorn, M.H., Steele, R.D., & Roisman, G.I. (2014). The significance of attachment security for children’s social competence with peers: A meta-analytic study. Attachment & Human Development,16 (2), 103-136. DOI: 10.1080/14616734.2014.883636
  43. Groh, A.M., Pasco Fearon, R.M., van Ijzendoorn, M.H., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M.J., & Roisman, G.I. (2017). Attachment in the early life course: Meta-analytic evidence for its role in socioemotional development. Child Development Perspectives, 11 (1), 70-76.
  44. Hoffman, M.L. (2000). Interaction and bonding of empathy and moral principles. In M.L. Hoffman (Ed.), Empathy and moral development: Implications for caring and justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  45. Hyde, L. W., Shaw, D. S., & Moilanen, K. L. (2010). Developmental precursors of moral disengagement and the role of moral disengagement in the development of antisocial behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 197–209.
  46. Hymel, S., Rocke-Henderson, N., & Bonanno, R. A. (2005). Moral disengagement: A framework for understanding bullying among adolescents. Journal of Social Sciences, 8, 1-11.
  47. Ianes, D., & Savelli, E. (1994). SEDS. Test dei problemi comportamentali ed emozionali. Trento: Erickson.
  48. Killer, B., Bussey, K., Hawes, D.J., & Hunt, C. (2019). A meta-analysis of the relationship between moral disengagement and bullying roles in youth. Aggressive Behavior, 45(4), 450-462.
  49. Klagsbrun, M., & Bowlby, J. (1976), Responses to separation from parents: A clinical test for young children. Projective Psychology, 21,7-27.
  50. Klomek, A. B., Marrocco, F., Kleinman, M., Schonfeld, I. S., & Gould, M. S. (2007). Bullying, depression, and suicidality in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46, 40-49.
  51. Koleva, S., Selterman, D., Iyer, R., Ditto, P., & Graham, J. (2012). The moral compass of insecurity: Anxious and avoidant attachment predict moral judgment. Social Psychology and Personality Science, 1-10. DOI: 10.1177/1948550613490965
  52. Londerville, S., & Main, M. (1981). Security of attachment, compliance, and maternal training methods in the second year of life. Developmental Psychology, 17, 289–299. DOI: 10.1037/0012-1649.17.3.289
  53. Lӧsel, F., & Bender, D. (2011). Emotional and antisocial outcomes of bullying and victimization at school: A follow-up from childhood to adolescence. Journal of Aggression, Conflict, and Peace Research, 3, 89-96. DOI: 10.1108/17596591111132909
  54. McLaughlin, K.A., Hatzenbuehler, M.L., & Hilt, L.M. (2009). Emotion dysregulation as a mechanism linking peer victimization to internalizing symptoms in adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77, 894-904.
  55. Menesini, E. (2003). Bullismo: Le azioni efficaci della scuola. Percorsi italiani alla prevenzione e all’intervento. Trento: Erickson.
  56. Menesini, E., Melan, E., & Pignatti, B. (2000). Interactional styles of bullies and victims observed in a competitive and a cooperative setting. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 161(3), 261-281. DOI: 10.1080/00221320009596710
  57. Menesini, E., Sanchez, V., Fonzi, A., Ortega, R., Costabile, A., & Lo Feudo, G. (2003). Moral emotions and bullying: A cross-national comparison of differences between bullies, victims and outsiders. Aggressive Behavior, 29, 515-530. DOI: 10.1111/1467-9507.00121
  58. Mikulincer, M., Shaver, P.R., Gillath, O., & Nitzberg, R.A. (2005). Attachment, caregiving, and altruism: Boosting attachment security increases compassion and helping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 817-839. DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.89.5.817
  59. Nansel, T. R., Overpeck, M, Pilla, R. S., Ruan, W. J., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying behaviors among US youth: Prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285, 2094-2100.
  60. Nickerson, A. B., & Slater, E. D. (2009). School and community violence and victimization as predictors of suicidal behavior for adolescents. School Psychology Review, 38, 218-232.
  61. Obermann, M.L. (2011). Moral disengagement in self-reported and peer-nominated school bullying. Aggressive Behavior, 37, 133-144.
  62. Paciello, M., Fida, R., Tramontano, C., Lupinet, C., & Caprara, G. V. (2008). Stability and change of moral disengagement and its impact on aggression and violence in late adolescence. Child Development, 79, 1288–1309.
  63. Pelton, J., Gound, M., Forehand, R., & Brody, G. (2004). The moral disengagement scale: Extension with an American minority sample. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 26, 31-39.
  64. Qudsyi, H., Nurtjahio, F.E., Afsari, N., Fitriani, H.N., & Sholeh, A. (2018). Spiritual well-being, parent attachment, and moral disengagement among college students. International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, 8(4), 100-104.
  65. Robson, C., & Witenberg, R.T. (2013). The influence of moral disengagement, morally based self-esteem, age, and gender on traditional bullying and cyberbullying. Journal of School Violence, 12(2), 211-231 DOI: 10.1080/15388220.2012.762921
  66. Schnall, S., Haidt, J., Clore, G., & Jordan, A. (2008). Disgust as embodied moral judgment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1096-1109. DOI: 10.1177/0146167208317771
  67. Shaver, P.R., & Mikulincer, M. (2012). An attachment perspective on morality: Strengthening authentic forms of moral decision making. In M. Mikulincer & P.R. Shaver (Eds.), The social psychology of morality: Exploring the causes of good and evil (pp. 257-274). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  68. Shulman, E. P., Cauffmann, E., Piquero, A. R., & Fagan, J. (2011). Moral disengagement among serious juvenile offenders: A longitudinal study of the relations between morally disengaged attitudes and offending. Developmental Psychology, 47, 1619-1632.
  69. Stayton, D.J., Hogan, R., & Ainsworth, M.D.S. (1971). Infant obedience and maternal behavior: The origins of socialization reconsidered. Child Development, 42, 1057-1069.
  70. Turner, R.M. (2008). Moral disengagement as a predictor of bullying and aggression: Are there gender differences? (Doctoral dissertation). Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska.
  71. van Ijzendoorn, M. (1997). Attachment, emergent morality, and aggression: Toward a developmental socioemotional model of antisocial behavior. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 21(4), 703-727.
  72. Wang, C., Hoon Ryoo, J., Swearer, S.M., Turner, R., & Goldberg, T.S. (2017). Longitudinal relationships between bullying and moral disengagement among adolescents. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 46, 1304-1317.
  73. Williams, K., & Kennedy, J.H. (2012). Bullying behaviors and attachment styles. North American Journal of Psychology, 14(2), 321-338.

  • Parenting Styles and Moral Disengagement in Young Adults: The Mediating Role of Attachment Experiences Lorenza Di Pentima, Alessandro Toni, Antonio Roazzi, in The Journal of Genetic Psychology /2023 pp.322
    DOI: 10.1080/00221325.2023.2205451
  • Moral development and parenting styles: the mediating role of emotional skills Lorenza Di Pentima, Alessandro Toni, Antonio Roazzi, in Current Psychology /2024 pp.16674
    DOI: 10.1007/s12144-023-05577-y

Lorenza Di Pentima, Sara Ramelli, Attaccamento e disimpegno morale nel fenomeno del bullismo: uno studio su bambini di scuola elementare in "RICERCHE DI PSICOLOGIA " 3/2020, pp 871-903, DOI: 10.3280/RIP2020-003005