Traditional Victims and Cybervictims: Prevalence, Overlap, and Association with Mental Health Among Adolescents in Singapore

  • Jerrine Z. N. KhongEmail author
  • Yi Ren Tan
  • John M. Elliott
  • Daniel Shuen Sheng Fung
  • Andre Sourander
  • Say How Ong
Original Paper


Traditional bullying typically occurs in schools and has been associated with a myriad of mental health problems. Recent evidence has indicated that cyberbullying may just be traditional bullying that is extended to the online world, but this possibility has received only limited study in Asian countries. This study explored the co-occurrence of traditional and cybervictimization and its association with mental health among 3319 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years in Singapore. Victims of bullying were categorized into mutually exclusive groups: traditional-only victims, cyber-only victims, or combined traditional and cybervictims. Results indicated that there were substantial overlaps between victimization in traditional bullying and cyberbullying and that traditional victimization was more prevalent than cybervictimization. Being a victim of either form of bullying (i.e., traditional-only or cyber-only victims) was associated with higher reports of internalizing and externalizing problems, and combined traditional and cybervictims reported the most internalizing problems. However, there were no significant differences in problem scores between traditional-only victims and cyber-only victims. The findings highlight the need to consider the extensive overlap between traditional and cybervictimization when investigating their differential association with adolescents’ mental health. Prevention and intervention efforts by school staff and mental health practitioners need to target both traditional bullying and cyberbullying in an integrated manner, and extra attention should be provided to adolescents who are victims of both forms of bullying.


Bullying Cyberbullying Victim Internalizing problems Externalizing problems 



We thank Qing Rong Chan, Rosie Lim, Jacky Tan, and Grace Yap for their assistance with data collection, and Denise Liu for her invaluable feedback on manuscripts drafts. We are grateful to the Ministry of Education Singapore, school principals, teachers, and counselors for their support and thank all students who participated in this research study.


Research reported in this manuscript was supported by Singapore Children’s Society and the National Healthcare Group Small Innovative Grant [grant number SIG/14007].

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest related to this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Advocacy and Research DepartmentSingapore Children’s SocietySingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Department of Developmental PsychiatryInstitute of Mental Health, SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  4. 4.Department of Child PsychiatryTurku University Hospital and Turku UniversityTurkuFinland

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