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Bullying victimization: time trends and the overlap between traditional and cyberbullying across countries in Europe and North America



This study explores recent cross-national trends over time (2002–2014) in the occurrence of victimization by bullying; then it documents the overlap between cybervictimization and traditional bullying in 2014 among adolescents in 37 countries.


Data from four cycles (2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014) of the cross-national Health Behavior in School-Aged Children study were included (N = 764,518). Trends in traditional victimization were evaluated using logistic regression models in 37 countries. Prevalence of cybervictimization and the overlap between cybervictimization and traditional victimization were estimated.


Linear decreases in bullying victimization were observed in 21 countries among boys, and in 12 countries among girls. The prevalence of cybervictimization was systematically lower than traditional victimization. Overall across all countries, 45.8% of those who reported cybervictimization also reported traditional victimization (46.5% for boys and 45.3% for girls), but wide country variations were observed.


These indicate the need for a more holistic perspective to intervention and prevention that considers all expressions of bullying, traditional or online. Public health programs and policies could focus on addressing bullying more broadly, rather than focusing on behaviors that happen in a particular context.

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The Canadian HBSC study is financially supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada (Contract Number CD016-123071-001/SS). HBSC Ireland was funded by the Health Promotion Policy Unit, Department of Health, Ireland. There was no involvement in the conduct of the research or preparation of the article by the study funders.

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Correspondence to Alina Cosma.

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Consent procedures required by ethical authorities for this type of survey were followed by each individual country. Institutional ethical consent was gained according to the requirements in each participating country, with schools, parents, and adolescents each providing informed consent or assent, either active or passive according to local requirements. Only those adolescents who volunteered to participate and whose parents did not object to their participation were included in the current study.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.

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Cosma, A., Walsh, S.D., Chester, K.L. et al. Bullying victimization: time trends and the overlap between traditional and cyberbullying across countries in Europe and North America. Int J Public Health 65, 75–85 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-019-01320-2

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  • Bullying
  • Victimization
  • Cybervictimization
  • Adolescence
  • HBSC