Definition and Measurement of Cyberbullying


The main goal of the present study was to improve the conceptual understanding of cyberbullying by empirically comparing the number of identified bullies and cyberbullies based on two measurement methods (global vs. specific items) and two cut off scores (lenient vs. strict). 1150 students (48% girls) aged 10 to 15 (M = 12.39, SD = 1.16) years were examined via self assessments. The number of cyberbullies was systematically underestimated when using a global item compared with three specific items indicating that the global cyberbullying item did not fully cover the behaviors described by the three specific cyberbullying items. Only 73 students (6.3%) were identified as occasional cyberbullies and 18 (1.6%) as frequent cyberbullies using the global item, while 186 students (16.2%) were identified as occasional cyberbullies and 87 (7.6%) as frequent cyberbullies using the specific items assessment. Controlling for traditional bullying, only 12 students (1%) remained pure occasional cyberbullies and only six students (0.5%) remained pure frequent cyberbullies when using the global item. According to the specific items assessment, 59 students (5.1%) remained pure occasional cyberbullies and 56 (4.9%) remained pure frequent cyberbullies. Thus, a distinct cyberbully group could only be identified when using a specific items assessment. Irrespective of measurement method and cut off scores, combined bullies (students being both cyberbullies and bullies) showed higher levels in overt and relational aggression compared with bullies and non bullies. Girls expressed higher levels of overt aggression than boys when they were identified as frequent combined bullies.

cyberbullying; bullying; measurement; overt aggression; relational aggression
Author biographies

Petra Gradinger

Author photoPetra Gradinger studied Psychology at the University of Vienna, Austria, and began to work within research projects in the topic of Educational Psychology. After receiving her master degree in 2005, she started her PhD (finished 2010). In 2006 she became a faculty member of the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Vienna, Austria. Her PhD project on the topic of cyberbullying is part of the research program on bullying and bullying prevention carried out by the principal investigators Christiane Spiel and Dagmar Strohmeier. Petra has been familiar with bullying research and bullying prevention since many years, as she gave presentations at conferences and held seminars for teachers and youth workers on the topic of bullying prevention. In addition she is familiar with fostering motivation and performance through e-learning methods in higher education.

Dagmar Strohmeier

Author photoDagmar Strohmeier received her Master´s degree in Psychology in 2001 at the University of Graz, Austria and her PhD in Psychology in 2006 at the University of Vienna, Austria. Dr. Strohmeier currently holds a position as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna. Dr. Strohmeier´s main research interests are peer relations in schools.

Christiane Spiel

Author photoChristiane Spiel is Professor of Educational Psychology and Evaluation and department head at the Faculty of Psychology, University of Vienna. Actually, she is president of the Austrian Society for Psychology, president of the DeGEval – Gesellschaft fuer Evaluation (Evaluation Society in Germany and Austria), member of the boards of directors of the Leibniz-University of Hannover and the Bergische University of Wuppertal. She is and has been chair and member of various international advisory and editorial boards as e.g., chair of the ERIH expert panel of the European Science Foundation for psychology, president of the European Society for Developmental Psychology, and founding dean of the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Vienna. In several projects she is working together with the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Science and Research. She has got several awards for research, university teaching, and university management and has published more than 190 original papers. She has added many external funded projects and organized several international conferences. Her research topics are on the boarder between developmental psychology, educational psychology and evaluation. Specific research topics are: Bullying und victimization, integration in multicultural school classes, lifelong learning, change measurement, evaluation research and quality management in the educational system.

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