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Dempsey, A. G., Sulkowski, M. L., Nichols, R., & Storch, E. A. (2009). Differences between peer victimization in cyber and physical settings and associated psychosocial adjustment in early adolescence. Psychology in the Schools, 46, 962–972.

Cyber bullies have the opportunity to victimize a greater number of people and in front of a larger audience than in traditional peer victimization.

Method: Participants included 1,684 students between the ages of 11 and 16 years from four public middle schools located in the southern United States. The Victimization of Self portion of the Revised Peer Experiences Questionnaire (RPEQ; Prinstein et al., 2001) contains nine items that assesses overt and relational victimization within the previous 30 days. For each item, participants were asked to report the frequency of being a victim of each behavior on a rating scale ranging from one (never) to five (a few times a week). Four questions were added to each of the RPEQ victimization scales. The questions were: (1) a student sent me a text message or instant message that was mean or that threatened me; (2) a student posted a comment on my Web space wall that was mean or that threatened me; (3) a student sent me an e-mail that was mean or that threatened me; and (4) a student created a Web page about me that had mean or embarrassing information and/or photos. These questions assessed cyber victimization. The Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents (SAS-A; La Greca, 1998), a 22-item measure of social anxiety, was used to assess overall anxiety related to social situations within the past 30 days. Respondents indicated the degree to which each item was true of them on a 5-point rating scale ranging 1 (not at all true) to 5 (true all the time). The Center for Epidemiology Studies Depression Scale (CES-D; Radloff, 1977) was utilized to assess depression. Respondents were prompted to rate the frequency of depressive symptoms experienced in the past week on a scale from 1 (less than once a day) to 4 (5-7 days a week).

Results: Fourteen percent of the students in the sample indicated that they had been victims of cyber bullying at least one time in the past 30 days. A weak relationship between cyber and overt and relational forms of victimization was found. Females reported greater frequency of relational and cyber victimization than did males, and males reported greater frequency of overt victimization than did females.

Discussion: Cyber victimization was only weakly associated with symptoms of social anxiety, not depression. Relational victimization was most highly associated with symptoms of social anxiety.