The overlap between cyberbullying and traditional bullying

J Adolesc Health. 2015 May;56(5):483-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.12.002. Epub 2015 Jan 24.


Purpose: Cyberbullying appears to be on the rise among adolescents due in part to increased access to electronic devices and less online supervision. Less is known about how cyberbullying differs from traditional bullying which occurs in person and the extent to which these two forms overlap. Our first aim was to examine the overlap of traditional bullying (relational, verbal, and physical) with cyberbullying. The second aim examined student- and school-level correlates of cyber victimization as compared to traditional victims. The final aim explored details of the cyberbullying experience (e.g., who sent the message, how was the message sent, and what was the message about).

Methods: Data came from 28,104 adolescents (grades, 9-12) attending 58 high schools.

Results: Approximately 23% of the youth reported being victims of any form of bullying (cyber, relational, physical, and verbal) within the last month, with 25.6% of those victims reporting being cyberbullied. The largest proportion (50.3%) of victims reported they were victimized by all four forms, whereas only 4.6% reported being only cyberbullied. Multilevel analyses indicated that as compared to those who were only traditionally bullied, those who were cyberbullied were more likely to have externalizing (odds ratio = 1.44) and internalizing symptoms (odds ratio = 1.25). Additional analyses examined detailed characteristics of the cyberbullying experiences, indicating a relatively high level of overlap between cyber and traditional bullying.

Conclusions: Implications for preventive interventions targeting youth involved with cyberbullying and its overlap with other forms of bullying are discussed.

Keywords: Cyberbullying; Relational victimization; Traditional bullying.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bullying / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Physical Abuse / psychology
  • Schools
  • Students / psychology*
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Violence / psychology*