Category: Suicide and Self-Injury
Cyberbullying as a concurrent and prospective predictor of NSSI in adolescents
Objective: A recent meta-analysis found a significant positive relationship between NSSI and peer victimization (Van Geel et al., 2015). The goal of the present study was to expand on previous literature by examining the relationship between concurrent and prospective cyberbullying and NSSI engagement in adolescents. Also, the study aimed to explore how experiencing cyberbullying at multiple time points would relate to NSSI severity. It was expected that bullying victimization at each time point would associate with NSSI engagement at that same time point. It was also expected that bullying victimization at earlier time points would associate with engagement in NSSI at future time points, and that cumulative bullying victimization would associate with more severe NSSI.
Method: Data were collected from 436 adolescents from two middle and two high schools (mean age=13.19, SD=1.1; 85% white; 53% female). Adolescents were assessed at baseline and 6- and 12-month follow-ups, each time completing measures of NSSI behavior, depressive symptoms, and three cyberbullying questions asking if others had spread rumors about them using texting, social media, etc., posted inappropriate photos of them on-line, and/or sent threatening/aggressive messages to them. Cyberbullying was coded as “yes” if any of these were answered affirmatively.
Results: Analyses found significant relationships between concurrent cyberbullying and engagement in NSSI at each time point. When cyberbullying was present, the Odds Ratio (OR) for NSSI was 1.72 at Time 1, 2.9 at Time 2, and 4.4 at Time 3 higher than when cyberbullying was not present (p’s < .05). Similarly, when cyberbullying was present at a prior time point, the likelihood of engagement in NSSI was significantly increased at later time points than when cyberbullying was not present (for Time 1 to Time 2, OR=2.35; Time 1 to Time 3, OR=2.23; and for Time 2 to Time 3, OR=3.06). To test the effects of cyberbullying on NSSI severity across multiple time points, regression analyses were used to predict NSSI frequency and versatility at Time 3, controlling for depression. Main effects and interactions were not significant.
Conclusions: Having experienced cyberbullying is consistently associated with a greater probability of engagement in NSSI at both concurrent and future time points. This result supports the growing literature on the adverse effects of cyberbullying on adolescents, and shows that past instances of bullying may increase the likelihood of NSSI even 6-12 months later. However, NSSI severity was not significantly predicted by cumulative cyberbullying. Future studies should continue to examine how the severity of bullying impacts NSSI.
Shelby Bandel– Graduate Student, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Natalie Perkins– Student, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky
Jordan Gregory– Western Kentucky University
Amy Brausch– Associate Professor of Psychological Sciences, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky