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A Longitudinal Examination of Empathy, Defender Self-Efficacy, and Moral Disengagement for Aggression as Predictors of Peer Defending




Corbitt-Hall, Darcy J.

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Studies

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Empathy, defender self-efficacy (DSE), and moral disengagement are known correlates of defending in response to bullying, but how they systematically foster defending is unclear. My thesis tests the proposition that, at high DSE, empathy is indirectly predictive of defending through low moral disengagement for aggression (MDA). Also proposed is a direct effect of empathy on direct defending (i.e., confronting bullies) at high DSE and on indirect defending (e.g., comforting victims) at low DSE. Data were collected from 4th and 5th graders (N = 1,564, 51.4% boys) in the fall and spring of one academic year. Low empathy was associated with greater MDA, particularly at high levels of DSE. MDA, in turn, predicted less defending. Empathy also directly predicted heightened defending, although for direct defending this link was significant only at high DSE. Thus, this study yielded novel insights into how cognitive-affective factors conjunctly predict two distinct forms of defending behaviors.