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Observed and parent‐reported conscience in childhood: Relations with bullying involvement in early primary school

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Social Development

Published online on


This exploratory study aimed to examine which components of early childhood conscience predicted bullying involvement around school entry. In the population‐based Generation R Study, teacher reports of bullying involvement and parent reports of conscience were available for 3,244 children (M age = 6.7 years). Higher levels of overall conscience predicted lower bullying perpetration scores, independently of intelligence quotient, temperamental traits and sociodemographic characteristics. Particularly, the subscales guilt, confession, and internalized conduct, and to a lesser extent empathy, predicted bullying perpetration. Conscience was not related to victimization. Similar results were found using observations during so‐called ‘cheating games’ (subsample N = 450 children). Findings suggest that improving children's understanding of moral standards and norms may be a potential target for bullying intervention programs in early primary school.