Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 675–684 | Cite as

Cyber Bullying and Physical Bullying in Adolescent Suicide: The Role of Violent Behavior and Substance Use

Empirical Research


The impact of bullying in all forms on the mental health and safety of adolescents is of particular interest, especially in the wake of new methods of bullying that victimize youths through technology. The current study examined the relationship between victimization from both physical and cyber bullying and adolescent suicidal behavior. Violent behavior, substance use, and unsafe sexual behavior were tested as mediators between two forms of bullying, cyber and physical, and suicidal behavior. Data were taken from a large risk-behavior screening study with a sample of 4,693 public high school students (mean age = 16.11, 47 % female). The study’s findings showed that both physical bullying and cyber bullying associated with substance use, violent behavior, unsafe sexual behavior, and suicidal behavior. Substance use, violent behavior, and unsafe sexual behavior also all associated with suicidal behavior. Substance use and violent behavior partially mediated the relationship between both forms of bullying and suicidal behavior. The comparable amount of variance in suicidal behavior accounted for by both cyber bullying and physical bullying underscores the important of further cyber bullying research. The direct association of each risk behavior with suicidal behavior also underscores the importance of reducing risk behaviors. Moreover, the role of violence and substance use as mediating behaviors offers an explanation of how risk behaviors can increase an adolescent’s likelihood of suicidal behavior through habituation to physical pain and psychological anxiety.


Adolescence Suicide Bullying Cyber bullying Substance abuse Violence 



The authors would like to thank and acknowledge Gaye Harrison and the I Sing the Body Electric (888-550-7464; coalition for their support of these analyses by granting access to their existing data.

Author Contributions

BL conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the statistical analyses, participated in the interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; AB participated in the design and coordination of the study, participated in the interpretation of the data, and helped to draft the manuscript; All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


  1. Bolognini, M., Plancherel, B., Laget, J., & Halfon, O. (2003). Adolescent’s suicide attempts: Populations at risk, vulnerability, and substance use. Substance Use and Misuse, 38(11–13), 1651–1669.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Borowsky, I. W., Ireland, M., & Resnick, M. D. (2001). Adolescent suicide attempts: Risks and protectors. Pediatrics, 107(3), 485–493.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brausch, A. M., & Gutierrez, P. M. (2010). Differences in non-suicidal self-injury and suicide attempts in adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39(3), 233–242.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brener, N. D., Collins, J. L., Kann, L., Warren, C. W., & Williams, B. I. (1995). Reliability of the youth risk behavior survey questionnaire. American Journal of Epidemiology, 141, 575–580.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Brener, N. D., Kann, L., McManus, T., Kinchen, S. A., Sundberg, E. C., & Ross, J. G. (2002). Reliability of the 1999 youth risk behavior survey questionnaire. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31(4), 336–342.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brener, N. D., McManus, T., Galuska, D. A., Lowry, R., & Wechsler, H. (2003). Reliability and validity of self-reported height and weight among high school students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 32(4), 281–287.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cash, S. J., & Bridge, J. A. (2009). Epidemiology of youth suicide and suicidal behavior. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 21(5), 613–619.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Available at:
  9. Cleary, S. D. (2000). Adolescent victimization and associated suicidal and violent behaviors. Adolescence, 35(140), 671.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cloud, J. (2010). Bullied to death? Time, 176(16), 60–63.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Compas, B. E., Hinden, B. R., & Gerhardt, C. A. (1995). Adolescent development: Pathways and processes of risk and resilience. Annual Review of Psychology, 46(1), 265–293.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deater-Deckard, K. (2001). Annotation: Recent research examining the role of peer relationships in the development of psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42(05), 565–579.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deykin, E. Y., & Buka, S. L. (1994). Suicidal ideation and attempts among chemically dependent adolescents. American Journal of Public Health, 84(4), 634–639.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Evans, W. P., Marte, R. M., Betts, S., & Silliman, B. (2001). Adolescent suicide risk and peer-related violent behaviors and victimization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 16(12), 1330–1348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fekkes, M., Pijpers, F., & Verloove-Vanhorick, S. P. (2004). Bullying behavior and associations with psychosomatic complaints and depression in victims. The Journal of Pediatrics, 144(1), 17–22.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fombonne, E. (1998). Suicidal behaviors in vulnerable adolescents: Time trends and their correlates. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 173, 154–159.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gould, M. S., King, R., Greenwald, S., Fisher, P., Schwab-Stone, M., Kramer, R., et al. (1998). Psychopathology associated with suicidal ideation and attempts among children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 37(9), 915–923.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hayes, A. F. (2009). Beyond Baron and Kenny: Statistical mediation analysis in the new millennium. Communication Monographs, 76, 408–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2010). Bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide. Archives of Suicide Research, 14(3), 206–221.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Houck, C. D., Hadley, W., Lescano, C. M., Pugatch, D., & Brown, L. K. (2008). Suicide attempt and sexual risk behavior: Relationship among adolescents. Archives of Suicide Research, 12(1), 39–49.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (2009). Monitoring the Future national results on adolescent drug use: Overview of key findings, 2008 (NIH Publication No. 09-7401).Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.Google Scholar
  22. Joiner, T. E. (2005). Why people die by suicide. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Juvonen, J., Nishina, A., & Graham, S. (2000). Peer harassment, psychological adjustment, and school functioning in early adolescence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(2), 349–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kim, Y. S., & Leventhal, B. (2008). Bullying and suicide. A review. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 20(2), 133.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Klomek, A., Marrocco, F., Kleinman, M., Schonfeld, I. S., & Gould, M. S. (2007). Bullying, depression, and suicidality in adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 46(1), 40–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Klomek, A., Marrocco, F., Kleinman, M., Schonfeld, I. S., & Gould, M. S. (2008). Peer victimization, depression, and suicidality in adolescents. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 38(2), 166–180.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Klomek, A., Sourander, A., & Gould, M. (2010). The association of suicide and bullying in childhood to young adulthood: A review of cross-sectional and longitudinal research findings. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 55(5), 282–288.Google Scholar
  28. Klomek, A., Sourander, A., Niemela, S., Kumpulainen, K., Piha, J., Tamminen, T., et al. (2009). Childhood bullying behaviors as a risk for suicide attempts and completed suicides: A population-based birth cohort study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 48, 254–261.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kumpulainen, K., Räsänen, E., Henttonen, L., Almqvist, F., Kresanov, K., Linna, S. L., et al. (1998). Bullying and psychiatric symptoms among elementary school-age children. Child Abuse and Neglect, 22(7), 705–717.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Levy, N., Cortesi, S., Crowley, E., Beaton, M., Casey, J., & Nolan, C. (2012). Bullying in a Networked Era: A Literature Review. Berkman Center Research Publication, (2012–2017).Google Scholar
  31. Li, Q. (2005). New bottle but old wine: A research of cyberbullying in schools. Computers in Human Behavior, 23, 1777–1791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ma, X. (2001). Bullying and being bullied: To what extent are bullies also victims? American Educational Research Journal, 38(2), 351–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Meltzer, H., Vostanis, P., Ford, T., Bebbington, P., & Dennis, M. S. (2011). Victims of bullying in childhood and suicide attempts in adulthood. European Psychiatry, 26, 498–503.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mitchell, K. J., Ybarra, M., & Finkelhor, D. (2007). The relative importance of online victimization in understanding depression, delinquency, and substance use. Child Maltreatment, 12(4), 314–324.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Murphy, S. L., Xu, J., & Kochanek, K. D. (2012). Deaths: preliminary data for 2012. National Vital Statistics Reports, 60, 1–51.Google Scholar
  36. Nickerson, A. B., & Slater, E. D. (2009). School and community violence and victimization as predictors of adolescent suicidal behavior. School Psychology Review, 38(2), 218–232.Google Scholar
  37. Odgaard, E. C., & Fowler, R. L. (2010). Confidence intervals for effect sizes: Compliance and clinical significance in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(3), 287–297.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Cambridge, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  39. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40(3), 879–891.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Silverman, J. G., Raj, A., Mucci, L. A., & Hathaway, J. E. (2001). Dating violence against adolescent girls and associated substance use, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behavior, pregnancy, and suicidality. Journal of the American Medical Association, 286(5), 572.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Slonje, R., & Smith, P. K. (2007). Cyberbullying: Another main type of bullying? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49(2), 147–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith, P. K., Mahdavi, J., Carvalho, M., Fisher, S., Russell, S., & Tippett, N. (2008). Cyberbullying: Its nature and impact in secondary school pupils. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 49(4), 376–385.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Spirito, A., Mehlenbeck, R., Barnett, N., Lewander, W., & Voss, A. (2003). The relation of mood and behavior to alcohol use in adolescent suicide attempters. Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, 12(4), 35–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Van Orden, K. A., Cukrowicz, K. C., Witte, T. K., & Joiner, T. E., Jr. (2012). Thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness: Construct validity and psychometric properties of the Interpersonal Needs Questionnaire. Psychological Assessment, 24(1), 197–215.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Van Orden, K. A., Witte, T. K., Cukrowicz, K. C., Braithwaite, S. R., Selby, E. A., & Joiner, T. E., Jr. (2010). The interpersonal theory of suicide. Psychological Review, 117(2), 575–600.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Van Orden, K. A., Witte, T. K., Gordon, K. H., Bender, T. W., & Joiner, T. E., Jr. (2008). Suicidal desire and the capability for suicide: Tests of the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior among adults. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76(1), 72–83.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wang, J., Iannotti, R. J., & Nansel, T. J. (2009). School bullying among adolescents in the United States: Physical, verbal, relational, and cyber. Journal of Adolescent Health, 45, 368–375.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wang, J., Nansel, T. R., & Iannotti, R. J. (2011). Cyber bullying and traditional bullying: Differential association with depression. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48(4), 415.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Windle, M. (1994). Substance use, risky behaviors, and victimization among a US national adolescent sample. Addiction, 89(2), 175–182.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ybarra, M. L., Boyd, D., Korchmaros, J. D., & Oppenheim, J. K. (2012a). Defining and measuring cyberbullying within the larger context of bullying victimization. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51, 53–58.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ybarra, M., Mitchell, K., & Espelage, D. (2012). Comparisons of bully and unwanted sexual experiences online and offline among a national sample of youth. In Ö. Özdemir (Ed.) Complementary Pediatrics. InTech.Google Scholar
  52. Zweig, J. M., Sayer, A., Crockett, L. J., & Vicary, J. R. (2002). Adolescent risk factors for sexual victimization: A longitudinal analysis of rural women. Journal of Adolescent Research, 17(6), 586–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Industrial/Organizational PsychologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWestern Kentucky UniversityBowling GreenUSA

Personalised recommendations