The current study explored whether agreeableness predicted cyberbullying perpetration across 3 years and extended previous studies by exploring the mediating effect of moral disengagement and the moderating effects of empathy and gender.
The participants included 2407 adolescents from 7 middle schools in China. They were recruited to complete the Big Five Personality Inventory, Bullying Scale and Empathy Scale at Time 1, Moral Disengagement Scale at Time 1 and Time 2, and Cyberbullying Perpetration Scale at Time 1, Time 2, and Time 3.
Agreeableness at Time 1 predicted cyberbullying perpetration at Time 3 and moral disengagement at Time 2 mediated this relationship. The relationship between moral disengagement at Time 2 and cyberbullying perpetration at Time 3 was stronger for low cognitive empathy adolescents than high cognitive empathy adolescents at Time 1. The relationship between agreeableness at Time 1 and cyberbullying perpetration adolescents at Time 3 was stronger for low affective empathy than high affective empathy adolescents at Time 1. The link between moral disengagement at Time 2 and cyberbullying perpetration at Time 3 was weaker for females than males.
Low agreeableness adolescents are more likely to use moral disengagement, which in turn leads to more cyberbullying perpetration.