We just received the page proofs from the Journal of School Health (official journal of the American School Health Association) for a piece entitled “Cyberbullying and Self-Esteem” that they recently accepted for publication. There has been much discussion recently as to how cyberbullying is related to depressive symptoms among adolescents, and so we also wanted to share with you how it is related to lower self-esteem – which, by the way, tends to be correlated with depression.
Adolescence is a time when identity development is particularly important – and often is linked to the social environment. Teens therefore tend to seek behaviors and situations that help them value themselves positively and to avoid those who make them feel bad about who they are. This, then, is tied into perceptions and acceptance of his or her changing self, and plays a critical role in shaping how they grow up, and the type of person they become.
The literature regarding bullying and self-esteem consistently finds that victims of bullying tend to have lower self-esteem than non-victims. The precise reasons for this relationship are far less agreed upon and clear. It may be that the experience of being victimized decreases one’s self-esteem, or that those who have low self-esteem are more likely to be targeted as victims. Interestingly, the relationship between bullying offending and self-esteem is much less consistent. Studies have found evidence to suggest that bullies tend to have both higher and lower self-esteem than non-bullies, and some studies have found no relationship at all.
So, we wanted to see how cyberbullying is linked to self-esteem, and studied this using data in a random sample of 1,963 students from 30 middle schools (6th through 8th grades) in one of the largest school districts in the United States. Similar to the research on traditional bullying, we found that cyberbullying victims and offenders both have significantly lower self-esteem than those who have not been cyberbullying victims or offenders. This relationship held regardless of gender, race, and age, although our results suggest that males, non-Whites, and older middle schoolers tend to have lower levels of self-esteem than their peers. We also found that the relationship between cyberbullying victimization and self-esteem is definitely stronger than that of cyberbullying offending and self-esteem.
A good amount of research in the past has linked low self-esteem to poorer academic achievement, absenteeism, health problems, criminal behavior, and a number of other consequences. The fact that cyberbullying is related to low self-esteem should motivate us to do all we can to prevent it, and hopefully preempt these other negative outcomes.
If you’d like a copy of the full paper – which lists the sources for the research previously mentioned, please drop us a note and we can send it your way.
UPDATED: Full text of the paper is available here.