Bullying and Cyberbullying on College Campuses: An Exploratory Pilot Study

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Eric Wesselmann

Mentor Department



Leandra Parris

Co-Mentor Department



Bullying is defined as aggression towards another that includes four components: repetition, intentional, distressing, and a power differential (Olweus, 1994). Bullying has been described as physical (e.g., hitting), verbal (e.g., name calling), relational (e.g., spreading rumors), and cyber (e.g., posting hurtful comments online). Bullying unfortunately is a common experience for many children and adults and has many negative physical and psychological outcomes for victims. Research typically measures bullying within the K-12 education setting or the workplace. Information regarding college campus bullying is warranted and this information would provide insight into how young adults conceptualize and experience bullying (e.g., types of victimization, coping responses) once they leave K-12 education system and before entering the workforce. Procedure: Two studies were conducted for the current project. The first included 212 undergraduate students in a large lecture-based course that completed open-ended and rating scales regarding the definition and frequency of bullying and cyberbullying on campus. The second study was conducted in Spring 2017 with 89 college students that explored in more detail the frequency of their own bullying and cyberbullying experiences and how undergraduate students responded to peer victimization incidents. Participants completed an adapted version of the Student Survey of Bullying Behaviors - Revised, 2nd Edition (SSBB-R2; Varjas, Henrich, & Meyers, 2009) and the Coping with Bullying Scale for Children (CBSC; Parris, 2013). Results: Study 1 revealed that for definitions of bullying and cyberbullying, most students identified distress and humiliation as one component, that few reported power differential or repeated, and for cyberbullying participants less often identified intentionality. 47.6% of the sample reported witnessing bullying/cyberbullying during college, with 31% reporting bullying occurring more than 2-3 times a month. Study 2 indicated that students did not conceptualize bullying as verbal, relational, physical or cyber. Self-blame was reported least often as a coping strategy. Traditional and cybervictimization were uniquely predictive of the use of distancing strategies (β = .025, p = .006, β = -.376, p = - .024). Further, greater face-to-face forms of bullying was associated with more use of these strategies while cybervictimization was associated with reduced distancing. Implications: This study provided preliminary information regarding the impact peer victimization may have on campus. Peer victimization occurs on campus and that students' perceptions of bullying does not align with the current literature and students largely distance themselves from incidents. Implications for practice, particularly on college campuses, and future research will be discussed.



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