Testing assumptions about cyberbullying: Perceived distress associated with acts of conventional and cyber bullying

Sheri Bauman, Matthew L. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Objective: Cyberbullying has received considerable attention, and experts have made several assumptions about this phenomenon. In particular, experts have speculated that the potential harm from cyberbullying is greater than that from conventional bullying, but this assumption has not been confirmed empirically. Method: In this study we tested this assumption by using a questionnaire with pairs of items describing similar experiences, one occurring in "traditional" ways and the other using digital technology. Respondents indicated the degree to which they would be upset by the incident on a scale from 1 (not at all upset) to 7 (extremely upset). Results: Findings from this study suggest that the distress associated with an incident of bullying is related to the nature of the bullying incident rather than the form. When comparing the parallel items, we discovered that although cyber-actions and conventional actions were significantly different for most pairs, the form that was more upsetting varied across items, providing further evidence that the form is not the distinguishing feature. Finally, we found significant gender differences on all subscales, with females reporting more distress than males. Conclusion: We close with a discussion of implications for both typologies of bullying and interventions designed to reduce bullying. Because cyberbullying may not be uniformly more harmful than other types of bullying, strategies to assist victims may be implemented with regard to the context and severity of the bullying, rather than its method of delivery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • bullying
  • cyberbullying
  • distress
  • factor analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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