Since bystander intervention on behalf of victims of peer aggression is credited with reducing victimization, yet little is known about how bystanders evaluate their intervention efforts, in the current study. African-, European-, Mexican-, and Native-American adolescents (N = 266) between 13 and 18 years (Mage = 15.0, 54% female) recounted vengeful and peaceful responses to a peer’s victimization.
For comparison, they also described acts of personal revenge. Youth’s explanations of how they evaluated each action were coded for goals and outcomes. Befitting its moral complexity, self-evaluative rationales for third-party revenge cited more goals than the other two conditions. References to benevolence and lack thereof were more frequent after third-party revenge compared to personal revenge. Concerns that security was compromised and that actions contradicted self-direction were high after both types of revenge. Third-party resolution promoted benevolence, competence, self-direction, and security more than third-party revenge. Epistemic network analyses and thematic excerpts revealed the centrality of benevolence goals in adolescents’ self-evaluative thinking. Self-focused and identity-relevant goals were cited in concert with benevolence after third-party intervention. (Publisher Abstract)