I enjoy hurting my classmates: On the relation of boredom and sadism in schools

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • Stefan Pfattheicher
  • Ljiljana B. Lazarević
  • Yngwie Asbjørn Nielsen
  • Erin C. Westgate
  • Ksenija Krstić
  • Simon Schindler

Schools can be a place of both love and of cruelty. We examined one type of cruelty that occurs in the school context: sadism, that is, harming others for pleasure. Primarily, we proposed and tested whether boredom plays a crucial role in the emergence of sadistic actions at school. In two well-powered studies (N = 1038; student age range = 10-18 years) using both self- and peer-reports of students' boredom levels and their sadistic tendencies, we first document that sadistic behavior occurs at school, although at a low level. We further show that those students who are more often bored at school are more likely to engage in sadistic actions (overall r = .36, 95% CI [0.24, 0.49]). In sum, the present work contributes to a better understanding of sadism in schools and points to boredom as one potential motivator. We discuss how reducing boredom might help to prevent sadistic tendencies at schools.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of School Psychology
Pages (from-to)41-56
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2023

Bibliographical note

This research was partially funded by the Velux Foundations ( PN38727 )

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors