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Price, M., Chin, M. A., Higa-McMillan, C., Kim, S., & Frueh, B. C. (2013). Prevalence and internalizing problems of ethnoracially diverse victims of traditional and cyber bullying. School Mental Health, 5, 183-191. doi:10.1007/s12310-013- 9104-6

Bullying occurs when an individual intentionally inflicts verbal, physical, or relational pain or discomfort on another person repeatedly over time, and involves an imbalance in mental and/or physical strength (Olweus, 1991, 1993; Smith et al., 1999). Bullying victims and bullies are at risk of a number of mental health, social, and interpersonal problems. Bullying victims may experience depression, low self-esteem, poor grades, and suicidal ideation, and bullies are more likely to get into fights, steal, receive poor grades, and vandalize property (Olweus, 1999). Bullying is a predictor for later delinquency, violence, and other adult anti-social behaviors (Bender & Losel, 2011; Vaughn et al., 2010). Research indicates that the prevalence of bullying tends to be higher among middle-school-aged students compared with high school students (Nansel et al., 2001; Olweus, 1993).Recent technological advances have resulted in the emergence of a new form of bullying known as cyber bullying—the use of technologies (e.g., cell phones, social networking sites) to cause discomfort and/or harm to another person (Kowalski & Limber, 2007).

Verbal bullying actions include threatening, taunting, teasing, and name-calling while physical bullying can involve hitting, pushing, kicking, pinching, or restraining another person against their will. Relational aggression is non-verbal and/or non-physical and may entail making faces or dirty gestures or intentionally excluding someone from a group (Olweus, 1993). Traditional bullying is usually contained to school grounds and often stops once the child has gone home. In contrast to traditional bullying, cyber bullying is neither overtly physical nor verbal. Cyber bullying can occur using a variety of devices in a variety of environments (Mishna, Saini, & Solomon, 2009). Some researchers argue that cyber bullying is more psychologically harmful compared with traditional bullying because it can be long lasting and may prevent children from feeling safe in multiple arenas (Raskauskas & Stoltz, 2007). Another important difference between cyber and traditional bullying is that cyber bullying can be conducted anonymously. Nearly half of youth who report being cyber-bullied does not know their attacker (Kowalski & Limber, 2007; Li, 2007). Between 14 and 49 % of youth report being victims of cyberbullying (Li, 2007; Mishna, Cook, Gadalla, Daciuk, & Solomon, 2010; Raskauskas & Stoltz, 2007; Wang, Iannotti, & Nansel, 2009). However, rates of cyber bullying in rural samples are relatively low (e.g., 9 %; Bauman, 2009). Approximately half of students who experience cyber bullying also report experiencing traditional bullying (Ybarra, Diener-West & Leaf, 2007).

Traditional bullying can have both short- and long-term effects. Victims of bullying are more likely to report feelings of anxiety and depression compared with non-victims (Bond, Carlin,Thomas, Rubin, & Patton, 2001). Bond et al. (2001) found that females exhibited more severe feelings of internalizing behaviors compared with males. Victims of bullying may also exhibit chronic absenteeism, reduced academic performance, increased apprehension, loneliness, abandonment from peers, and suicidal ideation (Beale, 2001). Compared with non-victims, individuals who are victims of bullying are more likely to have low self-esteem, long-term depression (Olweus, 1993), relationship problems in adulthood (High-Jones & Smith, 1999), and difficulty sleeping (Smokowski & Kopasz, 2005). In general, victims of cyber bullying tend to exhibit similar negative behaviors as victims of traditional bullying (e.g., Hinduja & Patchin 2010). For example, Beran and Li (2007) found that both victims of traditional and cyber bullying reported more difficulties at school and feelings of anger and sadness compared with non-victims. Ybarra et al. (2007) found that victims of cyber bullying were more likely to have detentions or suspensions and were more likely to skip school compared with non-victims. Research also indicates that both victims and offenders of cyber bullying have significantly lower self-esteem and report more suicidal ideation than those who had little or no experience with cyber bullying (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010; Patchin & Hinduja, 2010). Haynie et al. (2001) found that those who were both victims and perpetrators of bullying scored less favorably on all of the psychosocial and behavioral variables examined in the study (e.g., depression) compared with those who were only victims or bullies.

The present study examined cyberbullying and its prevalence, its relationship with traditional bullying, and the relationship between bullying, anxiety, and depression in a sample of rural and ethnoracially diverse youth.


Participants in the current study were 211 youth in grades 6 (61 %) and 7 (39 %) from a public middle school in a rural and ethnically diverse community in Hawaii. The majority of youths who participated identified as Multiethnic (74.8 %), which primarily included at least two of the following: Chinese (44.6 %), Filipino (52.9 %), Japanese (56.7 %), Native Hawaiian (59.9 %), or Caucasian (54.8 %). Youth who identified with only one ethnicity indicated Japanese (9.5 %), Caucasian (4.3 %), Filipino (4.3 %), Marshallese (2.4 %), Native Hawaiian (1.4 %), or other (3.5 %) ancestry.

The Revised Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire (R-OBVQ; Olweus, 1996), a 39-item self-report questionnaire designed to assess traditional bullying experience(s) in youth, was given to the students. Items from this measure are used to determine whether or not a child is a victim and/or bully using composite scores of items that comprise ‘‘bullying others’’ and ‘‘being victimized’’ scales (Olweus, 1997). The questionnaire addresses the type of traditional bullying the child was exposed to, where the bullying occurs, when the bullying occurs, and whether a child has informed other(s) about being bullied. A student was considered a victim/bully if he/she responded to any relevant scale item that he/she engaged in the activity 2 or 3 times a month or more. The Cyber/Victim Questionnaire, was created for this study; it included 38 self-report items designed to assess whether or not a child was cyber victim and/or cyber bully. Each scale includes 11 items that assess for the frequency at which cyber bully/victimization behaviors occur and the type of technological devices used for bullying behavior. The Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS; Chorpita, Yim, Moffitt, Umemoto, and Francis, 2000) is a 47-item, youth self-report questionnaire used to assess a variety of anxiety and depression problems in youth. It contains a Total Anxiety Scale (sum of the five anxiety subscales) and a Total Internalizing Scale (sum of all six subscales).

33% of students reported being a victim of some type of traditional bullying; 7 % of students qualified as cyber victims. Victims of all three forms of traditional bullying had significantly higher scores on the total anxiety and depression scales of RCADS than non-victims; victims of cyber bullying also reported significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression compared with non-victims. More than half of youths who qualified as traditional bullies and cyberbullies had clinically significant anxiety scores and clinically significant depression.


While cyber bullying does occur in rural communities, it often co-occurs with traditional bullying. Cyberbullying rates in the present study were low (7 %) relative to the majority of cyber bullying research. However, in one study that examined a rural sample of children, prevalence rates were also relatively low (9 %; Bauman, 2009). Both studies collected data from impoverished communities (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Therefore, it is possible that due to limited income and rural life conditions, students had little access to in-home technology due to competition over technological devices (Bauman, 2009).