Third Parties Mirror the Aggression of the Antagonists: A Video-Based Analysis of Third-Party Aggression in Interpersonal Conflicts

Peter Ejbye-Ernst*, Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard, Wim Bernasco

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Third parties tend to take an active role and intervene in interpersonal conflicts in public. Previous research has shown that the level of aggression of these interventions determines how they influence the conflict. No previous study has, however, systematically investigated whether the aggression of third-party interventions is influenced by the development of the conflict situation. The objective of this study is twofold. First, the study determines the extent to which the aggression level of intervening third parties changes during the course of interpersonal conflicts. Second, the study identifies and investigates the factors that affect the aggression levels displayed by intervening third parties. We systematically observed and coded CCTV footage of 46 interpersonal conflicts in public space, recorded by surveillance cameras in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The data included 565 intervention behaviors by 125 third parties. We recorded the levels of aggression of the individuals involved in the conflict and conducted a multinomial logistic regression analysis to investigate what influenced the aggression level of the third-party interventions. We found that the aggression levels of the preceding intervention behaviors by the third parties predict aggression levels of their subsequent interventions. This shows a consistency in third-party interventions over the course of a conflict. We also found that the aggression levels of the conflict parties that are the targets of the interventions influence the aggression levels of third-party intervention. This finding demonstrates that the development of the conflict situation influences how aggressive the third parties are. Our study emphasizes the importance of taking the interactional dynamics of interpersonal conflicts into consideration when explaining third-party behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NP15899-NP15924
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number17-18
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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© 2021 SAGE Publications.

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  • criminology
  • violence exposure
  • violent offenders


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