Cognitive insensitivity and cognitive impulsivity as mediators of bullying continuity: Extending the psychological inertia construct to bullying behavior.

Psychological inertia, the process by which social–cognitive variables help maintain behavioral patterns over time, has been found to explain crime continuity. The present study sought to determine whether psychological inertia can also be used to explain continuity in bullying behavior. A group of 1,161 youth (567 male) from the Illinois Study of Bullying and Sexual Violence were surveyed 3 times over a period of 1 year in an effort to determine which of two dimensions of precriminal cognition—cognitive insensitivity (callous, self-serving) or cognitive impulsivity (reckless, emotional)—mediated the past bullying–future bullying relationship. Consistent with research on crime continuity, cognitive impulsivity mediated bullying continuity, but cognitive insensitivity did not. Congruent with research on psychological inertia and crime continuity, the main reason why cognitive insensitivity did not mediate bullying continuity was that prior bullying behavior failed to predict subsequent cognitive insensitivity. In addition to providing support for a 2-dimensional (insensitivity, impulsivity) model of bullying development, these results suggest that 1 way bullying behavior can be managed is by challenging and reducing cognitive impulsivity, which in the current study was found to be a major contributor to bullying continuity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)