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Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology

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173. Assessment of Externalizing Symptoms among Cyberbullies, Victims, and Cyberbully-Victims in an Emerging Adult Sample

In the traditional bullying literature, three distinct subgroups of youth have been identified: bullies, victims, and bully-victims (Pellegrini, 1998). Of these groups, youth who are both victims and perpetrators of traditional bullying experience the greatest risk for maladjustment, demonstrating higher levels of aggression, hyperactivity, depression, substance use, and peer rejection (Austin & Joseph, 1996; Salmivalli & Nieminen, 2002). Less research, however, has examined how these groups may differ from one another in an online environment. A few studies have suggested that it may be more common for youth to be both cyberbullies and victims, and that youth who fall under this category may experience lower self-esteem, higher family and peer conflict, and higher levels of aggression than cyberbullies or victims alone (Bayraktar et al., 2015; Buelga et al., 2017). However, more research is needed to understand the prevalence and outcomes for youth involved in these distinct categories of cyberbullying. The current study examined the frequency of various types of cyberbullying behavior in a sample of 468 college students, distinguishing between cyberbully, victim, and cyberbully-victim groups, as well as examining differences in externalizing behaviors across the three groups. Of the 78% of participants involved in cyberbullying at least once in the last year, 10.9% reported being cyberbullies only, 33.1% reported being victims only, and 56% reported being cyberbully-victims. Men were more likely to be cyberbullies (t(38) = 2.10, p=.03) and cyberbully-victims than women (t(202)=5.14, p<.01), while no gender differences emerged for rates of victimization. A series of two-way ANOVAS were conducted to investigate whether levels of delinquent behavior, alcohol use, and substance use differed among the groups. Given the above results, gender was added as a moderator in our analyses. Results indicated that cyberbully-victims had significantly higher levels of delinquent behavior, alcohol use, and substance use than victims (p<.01 for all analyses). Cyberbullies did not differ from the other groups, and there was no significant interaction effect of gender. These findings provide further evidence that youth are involved in cyberbullying at alarming rates, particularly in the cyberbully-victim category, and they support findings of prior studies demonstrating that cyberbully-victims may be at a heightened risk for negative outcomes. Future work should seek to replicate these findings and explore risk factors that may contribute to the large proportion of youth who are both victims and perpetrators of online aggression.

Samantha Schires
Michigan State University

Mikayla Kim
Michigan State University

S. Alexandra Burt
Michigan State University


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