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Hay, C., Meldrum, R., & Mann, K. (2010). Traditional bullying, cyber bullying, and deviance: A general strain theory approach. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 26, 130–147.

A sample of roughly 400 adolescents from middle schools and high schools in the United States participated in this study. To assess the effects of bullying, two measures were used. The first was a 6-item measure that focused on physical and verbal harassment. Respondents indicated how often during the prior 12 months they were (a) the target of lies or rumors; (b) the target of attempts to get others to dislike them; (c) called names, made fun of, or teased in a hurtful way; (d) hit, kicked, or pushed by another student; (e) physically threatened by other students; and (f) picked on by others. The second measure was a 3-item scale that focused on cyberbullying. Respondents were asked to indicate how frequently during the previous 12 months they were (a) the target of “mean” text messages; (b) sent threatening or hurtful statements or pictures in an e-mail or text message; and (c) made fun of on the Internet. Externalizing delinquency was measured with a 5-item scale of offending during the prior 12 months. Respondents indicated how often they had (a) stolen something worth less than $50; (b) stolen something worth more than $50; (c) damaged, destroyed, or tagged property that did not belong to them; (d) entered a building or house without permission from the owner; and (e) hit, kicked, or struck someone with the idea of seriously hurting them. Two measures of internalizing behavior were used; the first was a measure of suicidal ideation in which respondents were asked how often “you think about killing yourself.” Self-harm was measured by asking respondents how often “you purposely hurt yourself without wanting to die,” with “cutting or burning” offered as examples.

Results: Cyber bullying had modestly higher effects than traditional bullying. For both types of bullying the effects were higher on self-harm and suicidal ideation than on delinquency. For traditional bullying, for example, the effect on suicidal ideation was nearly 80% higher than the effect on delinquency. The pattern was less extreme but still true for cyber bullying, which had an effect on suicidal ideation that was 24% higher than its effect on delinquency. The effects of cyber bullying on self-harm and suicidal ideation were significantly greater for males.