Date of Award

August 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Health

First Advisor

Paul W Florsheim

Committee Members

Young Cho, John Grych, Heather Hlavka, Lance Weinhardt


bystander intervention, Integrated Model of Behavioral Prediction, program evaluation, racism, randomized control trial, sexual violence


Background: Sexual violence is a critical public health problem that is particularly salient on college campuses. Bystander intervention is a prevention approach that teaches students who are not directly affected by a situation to take action to help others. Research is needed to understand the relationship between bystander training and changes in behavior to intervene against sexual violence, racism, and unhealthy alcohol outcomes.

Methods: A cluster randomized waitlist control trial was used to evaluate the bystander program Our School TAKES ACTION. Upper-level undergraduate students were randomized by housing floor from buildings of a private, midwestern university. Data was collected in online surveys using Qualtrics at baseline and follow-up. Path analysis tested theories to explain bystander behavior and intervention effects were tested using mixed effects models in STATA 15.1. A team coded qualitative data into bystander strategies and approaches.

Results: Students used a variety of strategies and approaches to intervene, with themes suggesting that students may have higher intentions than behaviors, be more likely to engage in passive approaches, and offer more support to friends/acquaintances who have been drinking alcohol compared to those experiencing violence. Results support The Theory of Planned Behavior in the verification of the key pathway between intentions and behaviors in low-risk primary prevention scenarios of sexual violence, racism, and alcohol. The additional factors of skills and environmental constraints did not significantly predict behaviors within the sexual violence model, suggesting that the Integrated Model of Behavioral Prediction was not a better fit. The program demonstrated effectiveness to improve bystander experiences when helping someone who had too much to drink and needed help. While there were no further significant effects of the program, emerging trends may help inform future programming.

Significance: This study contributes to an emerging body of research on the relationship between bystander intentions and behaviors. Future research is needed to explore the theoretical pathways that predict bystander intervention in upper-level undergraduates and increase bystander behaviors. Implications may inform subsequent practice in sexual violence prevention to improve health education, decrease sexual violence, racism and harmful alcohol outcomes, and promote safer college campuses.

Available for download on Sunday, August 28, 2022