Self-debasing cognitive distortion influences a person’s interpretation and increases the likelihood of negative reactions to events. Despite the theoretical support for the significant influence that cognition has in the onset and maintenance of behavioural and emotional reactions to victimisation, little research has been done on proactive cognitive strategy to down regulate negative emotional and behavioural reactions to witnessing bullying. For this reason, a qualitative descriptive-exploratory design was utilised to explore 10 early adolescent bystanders' reactions to school bullying following a self-debasing cognitive distortion restructuring intervention. Findings indicated that there were reductions in bystanders’ negative reactions to witnessing bullying that resulted from challenging the validity and reality of distortions in their thinking patterns. The study recommended that bystanders should be equipped with self-debasing cognitive distortions restructuring skills to root out the source of bias in their thought patterns with a view of down regulating their emotional and behavioural reactions to witnessing bullying.


Early Adolescent, school bullying, bystanders, self-debasing cognitive distortions, emotional and behavioural reactions, descriptive exploratory

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Segun Emmanuel Adewoye (https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8323-0933) is an early career researcher as well a part time lecturer at the Department of Educational Psychology, University of Pretoria. In 2020, Segun Emmanuel Adewoye graduated from the University of Pretoria with a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. After graduation, he has demonstrated determination for working and caring for students who have counseling need, he has worked to provide adequate psychological support to students who need support. Segun Emmanuel Adewoye plans to continue his role as Educational Psychologist through psychotherapy research, to better understands how to care for those in need. Please direct correspondence to adewoyesegunemmanuel@gmail.com.

Dr. Annelize Du Plessis (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7134-5028) is a lecturer at the Department of Humanities Education, University of Pretoria. Her teaching interests and expertise in both under and postgraduate programmes include teacher training, inclusive education, and qualitative research methodology. In her thesis, Dr. Annelize Du Plessis designed, implemented and evaluated a multisensory reading programme that could play a significant role in the process of mastering reading skills. Annelize Du Plessis has supervised PhD thesis and master dissertations to completion. Please direct correspondence to Annelize.duplessis@up.ac.za.


We are grateful to the Department of Education Pretoria for allowing this study to be conducted in the Gauteng province of South Africa

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