Where Does Cyberbullying Fit? A Comparison of Competing Models of Adolescent Aggression

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Objective: This study examined how cyberbullying fits into a framework of adolescent aggression. It was hypothesized that a dimensional model that considered both form (overt or relational) and media (in-person or electronic) of aggression would best fit the data. Method: Participants were 677 adolescents (ages 11 to 15) from 3 public schools. The sample was 92% Black or African American. Participants completed a self-report measure that assessed their frequency of physical, verbal, and relational aggression and cyberbullying. Results: Contrary to hypothesis, confirmatory factor analyses provided the clearest support for a 3-factor model that conceptualized cyberbullying as a counterpart to overt and relational aggression. A latent class analysis revealed a moderate aggression class and a low aggression class, with neither group distinguishable by cyberbullying behaviors. A comparison of the 3-factor model and the 2-class solution indicated that a dimensional model provided the best fit. Conclusions: Researchers have generally assumed that cyberbullying is a new form of aggression, a counterpart to overt and relational aggression, and this conceptualization fits the data quite well. Both media and form are important dimensions of aggression, but there may not be enough variation across types of cyberbullying behaviors to result in differentiation by form.

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