Photo of Robert Thornberg

Robert Thornberg


School bullying occurs every day but students seldom act as defenders. Social and individual processes can easily disengage moral standards. To prevent bullying, knowledge of these processes is necessary. This is my research focus. 


Robert Thornberg is a Professor of Education at the Department of Behavioural Sciences, Linköping University. He earned his Ph.D. in Educational Research 2006. His current research is on school bullying, especially with a focus on social and moral processes involved in bullying, bystander rationales, reactions and actions, and students' perspectives and explanations.

His second line of research is on values education including morals, norms, and student participation in everyday school life. A third line of research is on teacher education, especially student teachers' motives to become a teacher and their experiences of distressed situations during teacher training. Thornberg uses a range of research methods including qualitative interviews and focus groups, questionnaires and psychometric scales, ethnographic fieldwork, cross-sectional and longitudinal designs, grounded theory, and statistical methods."

Areas of Expertise

Risk and protective factors associated with school bullying

Social psychology of school bullying

Moral agency and disengagement in relation to school bullying and the bystander position in school bullying

Students’ perceptions of why bullying happens and why different bystander actions take place 

Values education in everyday school life

Grounded theory and its constructivist turn

Research Interests

Bullying and bystander behaviours, and their associations with individual and collective moral disengagement, self-efficacy, collective efficacy, and moral emotions

Bullying and moral reasoning

Bullying and bystander behaviours, and their associations with classroom climate, with a particular focus on teacher-student relationships and student-student relationships

Motivational factors associated with defender, passive bystander, and pro-bully behaviour when witnessing bullying

The social interaction patterns of school bullying, normative discourses, and social constructions of the involved students

Students’ perspectives on and explanations of bullying and different bystander behaviours in bullying

Teachers’ and student teachers’ perspectives on values education

Emotional distressful learning situations at teacher and medical education

Students’ perceptions of school rules



Marlene Bjarehed, Björn Sjögren, Robert Thornberg, Gianluca Gini, Tiziana Pozzoli (2024) A short-term longitudinal study on the development of moral disengagement among schoolchildren: the role of collective moral disengagement, authoritative teaching, and student-teacher relationship quality Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 15, Article 1381015 Continue to DOI
Jun Sung Hong, Dong Ha Kim, Anthony A. Peguero, Robert Thornberg, Sana Naveed (2024) Sex and Racial/Ethnic Differences in School Security Measures, Bullying Victimization, and Perceived School Safety: Implications for Pediatric Health Care Journal of Pediatric Health Care, Vol. 38, p. 148-159 Continue to DOI
Maria Weurlander, Linda Wänström, Astrid Seeberger, Annalena Loenn, Linda Barman, Hakan Hult, Robert Thornberg, Annika Wernerson (2024) Development and validation of the physician self-efficacy to manage emotional challenges Scale (PSMEC) BMC Medical Education, Vol. 24, Article 228 Continue to DOI
Mattias Kloo, Robert Thornberg, Linda Wänström, Dorothy L. Espelage (2024) Longitudinal links of authoritative teaching and bullying victimization in upper elementary school Educational Psychology Continue to DOI
Henrik Lindqvist, Maria Weurlander, Linda Barman, Robert Thornberg, Annika Wernerson (2024) Suitability and distance: Mentor teachers' perspectives on challenging relations when mentoring student teachers


Networks, commissions and social media

Research networks 

  • Nordic Educational Research Association (Board Member)
  • Bullying Research Network (BRNET)
  • The NERA Network 7: Value Issues and Social Relations in Education (Convenor)
  • Swedish Educational Research AssociationFriends nationella nätverk för mobbningsforskare
  • Children’s Identity and Citizenship in EuropeNationellt nätverk for forskning om barns och ungas rättigheter i utbildning 



  • Member of the Doctoral Educational Board of the Faculty of Educational Sciences, Linköping University
  • International research faculty member of the Center for Research on School Safety, School Climate and Classroom Management, at the College of Education, Georgia State University, Atlanta, U.S.
  • Board member of the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA)
  • Member of the Editor Board of the journal Nordic Studies in Education
  • Coordinator for the NERA Network of Value Issues and Social Relations in Education


Professional Self-efficacy, Emotional challenges and Moral stress in Teacher and Medical Education

Schools and healthcare are complex that place high cognitive and emotional demands on professionals. The project investigates how students develop professional self-efficacy during their education to become teachers and doctors.

boy being tripped by bullies

The Social and Moral Processes of Bullying - a four-year longitudinal study

Focusing on the interplay between individual and contextual factors will help us to better understand bullying, the reasons for bullying and different bystander behaviour.

mobbad pojke vid tegelvägg, ensam

Bullying and Morality

Moral reasoning, moral disengagement and self-efficacy when it comes to defending bullying victims are all variables affecting a bullying situation. Depending on these, bullying situations and the outcome of them can look very different.

My Division