To examine sex differences in the association between cyberbullying victimization and mental health (psychological distress and delinquency), substance use-related outcomes (drug and tobacco use, binge drinking), and suicide ideation among adolescents.
Data were obtained from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS; 2013, N=10,272, grade 7 to 12). The sample for analysis included 4,940 students with a mean age of 15.1 years (43.3% male). A series of multi-level, binary, logistic regression models were conducted separately for female and male adolescents to quantify the strength of associations between cyberbullying victimization and study outcomes, after accounting for traditional forms of bullying and demographic covariates.
Female adolescents reported significantly higher prevalence of cyberbullying victimization (once, 9.4%; twice or more, 13.3%) as compared with male adolescents (once, 8.3%, twice or more, 7.8%). Exposure to cyberbullying victimization was associated with an increased odds for psychological distress, suicide ideation, and delinquency among both female and male adolescents (adjusted odds ratios ranged from 1.76 to 4.63); although, the effects were more pronounced in females. Among females, but not males, the odds of reporting psychological distress, suicide ideation, and delinquency increased (in a step-wise fashion) with more frequent exposure to cyberbullying victimization. Cyberbullying victimization was associated with an increased odds of adolescent substance use only among females.
Adolescents exposed to cyberbullying victimization demonstrate an increased odds of poorer mental health, substance use outcomes, and suicide ideation. The current study reveals increased risk among female adolescents as compared with male adolescents. These findings lend support for the need to develop and evaluate targeted preventative interventions specifically tailored for female and male adolescents.