Differentiating cyber bullying perpetration from non-physical bullying: Commonalities across race, individual, and family predictors

Sabina Low, Dorothy Espelage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


Objective: We are surprisingly limited in our understanding of mechanisms specific to cyber-bullying perpetration, and how these might be modified by subgroup differences such as race. Social learning theory was used to assess the role of maladaptive family social dynamics on cyber-bullying and nonphysical bullying (i.e., verbal and relational) involvement through individual risk and protective factors. Method: Moderated mediation models were analyzed using multiple regression analysis across three time points (each six months apart) to examine predictors of bullying perpetration among 1,023 early adolescents (5th through 7th grades). Students completed questionnaires assessing bullying perpetration, family conflict, parental monitoring, hostility, depressive symptoms, empathy, and alcohol and drug use (AOD). Two-and three-way interactions assessed moderation by race and gender. Results: At the simple bivariate level, cyber-bullying appears to have significant overlap with nonphysical bullying. Longitudinal analyses, however, reveal less overlap. Specifically, parental monitoring was associated with higher levels of cyber-bullying at wave 3, via AOD use (only for White females). Nonphysical bullying levels were associated with both higher family violence and lower parental monitoring, which were explained by hostility (for White males) and depressive symptoms (for African American males). Conclusions: Findings validate the importance of familial socialization but suggest that cultural context and gender modify the specific patterns. Further study is needed to determine the necessity of separate prevention strategies for cyber-bullying, as current findings suggest that comprehensive (universal) prevention programs that target self-regulation and social competencies would impact both forms of bullying, and are more feasible than family targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-52
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • bullying
  • cyberbullying
  • gender
  • longitudnal predictors
  • race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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