Skip to main content

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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  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.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Borowsky, I. W., Ireland, M., & Resnick, M. D. (2001). Adolescent suicide attempts: Risks and protectors. Pediatrics, 107(3), 485–493.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Cash, S. J., & Bridge, J. A. (2009). Epidemiology of youth suicide and suicidal behavior. Current Opinion in Pediatrics, 21(5), 613–619.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Available at: www.cdc.gov/yrbss.

  9. Cleary, S. D. (2000). Adolescent victimization and associated suicidal and violent behaviors. Adolescence, 35(140), 671.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Cloud, J. (2010). Bullied to death? Time, 176(16), 60–63.

    PubMed  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Fombonne, E. (1998). Suicidal behaviors in vulnerable adolescents: Time trends and their correlates. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 173, 154–159.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Hayes, A. F. (2009). Beyond Baron and Kenny: Statistical mediation analysis in the new millennium. Communication Monographs, 76, 408–420.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2010). Bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide. Archives of Suicide Research, 14(3), 206–221.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

  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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Kim, Y. S., & Leventhal, B. (2008). Bullying and suicide. A review. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 20(2), 133.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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).

  31. Li, Q. (2005). New bottle but old wine: A research of cyberbullying in schools. Computers in Human Behavior, 23, 1777–1791.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Ma, X. (2001). Bullying and being bullied: To what extent are bullies also victims? American Educational Research Journal, 38(2), 351–370.

    Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Slonje, R., & Smith, P. K. (2007). Cyberbullying: Another main type of bullying? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49(2), 147–154.

    Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Windle, M. (1994). Substance use, risky behaviors, and victimization among a US national adolescent sample. Addiction, 89(2), 175–182.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

    PubMed  Article  Google 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.

  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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank and acknowledge Gaye Harrison and the I Sing the Body Electric (888-550-7464; www.isbe.org) 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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amy M. Brausch.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Litwiller, B.J., Brausch, A.M. Cyber Bullying and Physical Bullying in Adolescent Suicide: The Role of Violent Behavior and Substance Use. J Youth Adolescence 42, 675–684 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-9925-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Suicide
  • Bullying
  • Cyber bullying
  • Substance abuse
  • Violence