Academic journal article Missouri Law Review

Cyberbullying Victimization: Associations with Other Victimization Forms and Psychological Distress

Academic journal article Missouri Law Review

Cyberbullying Victimization: Associations with Other Victimization Forms and Psychological Distress

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

Cyberbullying has gained increasing attention over the past decade, in part driven by significant media coverage on this topic. (1) While media attention has increased, prevalence rates derived from national and local surveys indicate that cyberbullying is a less common experience among youth than traditional bullying. (2) Nonetheless, a significant number of youth experience both cyberbullying and its deleterious effects, and additional research is needed to guide nascent prevention and intervention efforts. In particular, existing research does not clarify the extent to which cyberbullying overlaps with traditional bullying or other forms of victimization that children might encounter in their schools, homes, and communities. Further, few studies have focused on the extent to which cyberbullying contributes to psychological distress when combined with other victimization exposures. To that end, the goals of the current investigation were to, (1) assess rates of cyberbullying victimization by sex, age, and race/ethnicity; (2) examine the overlap between cyberbullying victimization and traditional bullying; (3) evaluate the overlap between cyberbullying victimization and other victimization forms, and (4) determine the extent to which cyberbullying victimization alone and in con junction with other victimization exposures is associated with psychological distress. Given the limited research base on these issues, and at times divergent findings (e.g., with respect to sex differences), (3) the investigation was largely exploratory. However, we expected to find a significant association between cyber and traditional bullying.

II. EXISTING RESEARCH

A. Cyberbullying Prevalence: Overall and by Demographic Characteristics

Sampling and methodological differences have contributed to a wide range of prevalence estimates for cyberbullying set forth. For example, prevalence estimates of cyberbullying victimization range from 9% to 35% and perpetration rates range from 4% to 21%. (4) In terms of frequency of involvement, in a nationally representative study of 6th to 10th grade students in the United States, 5.6% of youth reported "occasional" cyber victimization, and 4.3% of youth reported "frequent" cyber victimization. (5) In this same study, 4.2% of youth stated they engaged in "occasional" cyberbullying perpetration, and 4.3% indicated they were involved in "frequent" cyberbullying perpetration. (6) When considering subtypes of youth involved in cyberbullying, in an investigation of nearly 4000 middle school students, Kowalski and Limber found that 11.1% of middle school youth were victims, 6.8% were bully-victims, and 4.1 were perpetrators of electronic bullying. (7)

Beyond prevalence and perpetration estimates, a range of demographic differences in cyberbullying has also been shown in a limited number of studies examining cyberbullying by sex, grade, and race/ethnicity. Results pertaining to sex differences have been conflicting. (8) Specifically Wang and colleagues found that boys were more likely to be classified as cyberbullies than girls, but that girls were more likely to be cyber victims than boys. (9) In contrast, Low and Espelage found girls to report higher levels of cyberbullying perpetration, (10) and Williams and Guerra did not find differences in cyberbullying between males and females. (11) With respect to relations between cyberbullying involvement and age, between Swiss and Australian adolescents there was no association between age and cyber victimization, but older youth were significantly more likely to engage in cyber perpetration. (12) Conversely, Williams and Guerra found that the peak for Internet perpetration was in the 8th grade, at which time 12.9% of youth reported such behaviors in contrast to 4.5% of 5th graders and 9.9% of 10th graders. (13) Finally, the majority of studies have predominantly consisted of White participants and thus potential racial/ethnic differences in prevalence remain largely unknown. …

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