Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 698–710 | Cite as

Individual and Contextual Predictors of Cyberbullying: The Influence of Children’s Provictim Attitudes and Teachers’ Ability to Intervene

  • L. Christian Elledge
  • Anne Williford
  • Aaron J. Boulton
  • Kathryn J. DePaolis
  • Todd D. Little
  • Christina Salmivalli
Empirical Research


Electronic social communication has provided a new context for children to bully and harass their peers and it is clear that cyberbullying is a growing public health concern in the US and abroad. The present study examined individual and contextual predictors of cyberbullying in a sample of 16, 634 students in grades 3–5 and 7–8. Data were obtained from a large cluster-randomized trial of the KiVa antibullying program that occurred in Finland between 2007 and 2009. Students completed measures at pre-intervention assessing provictim attitudes (defined as children’s beliefs that bullying is unacceptable, victims are acceptable, and defending victims is valued), perceptions of teachers’ ability to intervene in bullying, and cyberbullying behavior. Students with higher scores on provictim attitudes reported lower frequencies of cyberbullying. This relationship was true for individual provictim attitudes as well as the collective attitudes of students within classrooms. Teachers’ ability to intervene assessed at the classroom level was a unique, positive predictor of cyberbullying. Classrooms in which students collectively considered their teacher as capable of intervening to stop bullying had higher mean levels of cyberbullying frequency. Our findings suggest that cyberbullying and other indirect or covert forms of bullying may be more prevalent in classrooms where students collectively perceive their teacher’s ability to intervene in bullying as high. We found no evidence that individual or contextual effects were conditional on age or gender. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


Cyberbullying Provictim attitudes Teacher intervention Youth Adolescence 


Author Contributions

LCE conceived of the study and helped to draft the introduction, methods, results, and discussion as well as contributed to the revision of the introduction, methods, and discussion; AW conceived of the study and drafted the introduction and discussion as well as contributed to the revision of the introduction, methods and discussion; AB performed the statistical analysis, lead the interpretation of the results and drafted the methods and results sections as well as to the revision of the introduction, methods, and discussion; KD helped to draft the introduction and the discussion section and assisted with final editing as well as with the revision of the introduction and the discussion; TL participated in the study’s design, consulted on the analysis, reviewed the results for accuracy, and assisted with final editing of both the original submission and the revision; CS conceived intervention trial from which data for the present study were drawn, participated in the present study’s design, reviewed the manuscript for accuracy, and assisted with final editing of both the original submission and the revision. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Christian Elledge
    • 1
  • Anne Williford
    • 2
  • Aaron J. Boulton
    • 3
  • Kathryn J. DePaolis
    • 2
  • Todd D. Little
    • 3
  • Christina Salmivalli
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Clinical Child Psychology, 2010 Dole Human Development CenterUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WelfareUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  3. 3.Department of Quantitative PsychologyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  4. 4.Division of Psychology, Department of Behavioural Sciences and PhilosophyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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