Objective Cyberbullying involvement carries mental health risks for adolescents, although post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms have not received strong attention in the UK. This study aimed to assess the overlap between cyber and traditional (ie, face-to-face) bullying, and the relationship to PTS symptoms in UK adolescents.
Design A cross-sectional survey.
Setting Four secondary schools in London,UK.
Participants 2218 secondary school students (11–19 years).
Main outcome measures The Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire and the Children Revised Impact of Events Scale.
Results There was a significant overlap between traditional bullying and cyberbullying. However, cyberperpetrators were less frequently involved in concurrent traditional bullying. Of 2218 pupils, 46% reported a history of any kind of bullying (34% were involved in traditional bullying and 25% in cyberbullying), 17% as victims, 12% as perpetrators, and 4% as both victims and perpetrators. A significant proportion of those who were cybervictims (n=280; 35%), cyberbullies (n=178; 29.2%) or cyberbully-victims (n=77; 28.6%) presented clinically significant PTS symptoms. Cybervictims (both cyber-only and cyberbully-victims) suffered more intrusion (p=0.003; p<0.001) and avoidance (p=0.005; p<0.001) than cyberbullies. However, cyberbullies still suffered more PTS symptoms than the non-involved (intrusion: z=−3.67, p=0.001; avoidance: z=−3.57, p=0.002). Post-traumatic stress symptoms were significantly predicted (R2=13.6) by cyber and traditional victimisation.
Conclusions Cyberbullying, as victim only or as a victim-perpetrator, seems to be associated with multiple types of PTS symptoms. Cyber and traditional victimisation significantly predicted intrusion and avoidance. Paediatricians, general practitioners and mental health professionals need to be aware of possible PTS symptoms in young people involved in cyberbullying. Screening and early cost-effective treatments could be implemented.
- adolescent health
- child psychiatry
- multidisciplinary team-care
- paediatric practice
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Contributors AM conceived the work, wrote the protocol, assisted in the study design, selected articles for inclusion, extracted, analysed and interpreted the data and wrote the paper. AP-S conceived the work, selected articles for inclusion, analysed and interpreted the data and wrote the paper. MM-H wrote the protocol, assisted in the study design, selected articles for inclusion, extracted, analysed and interpreted the data and wrote the paper. NH conceived the work, wrote the protocol, assisted in the study design, extracted the data and wrote the paper. DN assisted in the study design, supervised the project, analysed and interpreted the data, selected articles for inclusion and helped in writing the paper. TK assisted in the study design, supervised the project, analysed and interpreted the data, selected articles for inclusion and helped in writing the paper.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request.