Cyberbullying, School Bullying, and Psychological Distress: A Regional Census of High School Students

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Abstract

Objectives

Using data from a regional census of high school students, we have documented the prevalence of cyberbullying and school bullying victimization and their associations with psychological distress.

Methods

In the fall of 2008, 20 406 ninth- through twelfth-grade students in MetroWest Massachusetts completed surveys assessing their bullying victimization and psychological distress, including depressive symptoms, self-injury, and suicidality.

Results

A total of 15.8% of students reported cyberbullying and 25.9% reported school bullying in the past 12 months. A majority (59.7%) of cyberbullying victims were also school bullying victims; 36.3% of school bullying victims were also cyberbullying victims. Victimization was higher among nonheterosexually identified youths. Victims report lower school performance and school attachment. Controlled analyses indicated that distress was highest among victims of both cyberbullying and school bullying (adjusted odds ratios [AORs] were from 4.38 for depressive symptoms to 5.35 for suicide attempts requiring medical treatment). Victims of either form of bullying alone also reported elevated levels of distress.

Conclusions

Our findings confirm the need for prevention efforts that address both forms of bullying and their relation to school performance and mental health.

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