Having supportive parents can protect adolescents from being bullied in the real world and online too, a report in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows.
The study, in 7,182 sixth- to tenth-graders, is among the first to look at cyber-bullying in a national sample of US adolescents, according to the study's authors. The findings "suggest that positive parental behaviors protect adolescents not only from bullying others but also from being bullied," Dr Jing Wang and colleagues from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, in the US say.
The researchers looked at the prevalence of four different types of bullying: physical, such as hitting, kicking or pushing another person; verbal, name calling or teasing someone hurtfully; relational, which involves "indirect" methods like excluding someone or spreading rumours about them; and electronically, defined as aggression manifested through e-mails, instant messaging and texting.
Over a 2-month period, 20.8% of the study participants said they'd been involved in physical bullying (as a victim or perpetrator or both), 53.6% in verbal bullying, 51.4% in relational bullying, and 13.6% in cyber-bullying.
Boys more involved in physical bullying
As other studies have shown, boys were more likely to be involved in physical and verbal bullying, while relational bullying was more common among girls. In cyberspace, boys were more likely to bully, while girls were at greater risk of victimisation.
Young people with a relatively high level of support from their parents - representing 47% of the total - were less likely to be involved in any of the four types of bullying, the researchers found.
The researchers did find a couple of distinct differences between cyber and traditional bullying. While children with more friends were more likely to bully others physically, verbally or relationally, and less likely to be victims of any of these bullying types, the size of a child's social circle wasn't related to whether or not he or she got involved with cyber-bullying.
Socioeconomic link to cyber-bullying
Higher socioeconomic status kids were more likely to be involved in cyber-bullying as victims, probably because they had better access to computers and cell phones, the researchers say.
They conclude: "Our results confirmed the important roles of parental support and number of friends, and suggest that demographic characteristic as well as different forms of bullying should be considered when examining or planning interventions on adolescent bullying." - (Reuters Health, June 2009)
SOURCE: Journal of Adolescent Health, May 13, 2009.
Bullies stalk virtual world