Differences in adolescents’ motivations for indirect, direct, and hybrid peer defending

Jeroen Pronk*, Tjeert Olthof, Frits A. Goossens, Lydia Krabbendam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Adolescents’ defending of peers who are being bullied—or peer defending—was recently found to be a heterogeneous behavioral construct. The present study investigated individual differences in adolescents’ motivations for executing these indirect, direct, and hybrid defending behaviors. In line with the literature on bullying as goal-directed strategic behavior, we adopted a social evolution theory framework to investigate whether these peer-defending behaviors could qualify as goal-directed strategic prosocial behaviors. A sample of 549 Dutch adolescents (49.4% boys; Mage = 12.5 years, SD = 0.6 years) participated in this study. Their peer reported defending behaviors (including bullying behavior as a control variable) and the following behavioral motivations were assessed: (a) agentic and communal goals (self-report), (b) prosocial and coercive social strategies (peer report), and (c) altruistic and egocentric motivations for prosocial behavior (self-report). The outcomes of hierarchical linear regression analyses suggest that adolescents’ motivations for executing the different subtypes of peer defending partially overlap but are also different. While indirect defending was fostered by genuine concerns for victims’ well-being, direct defending was more motivated by personal gains. Hybrid defending combined favorable aspects of both indirect and direct defending as a goal-directed, strategic, and altruistically motivated prosocial behavior. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-429
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Development
Issue number2
Early online date13 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • behavioral strategies
  • defending
  • prosocial motivations
  • social goals


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