Abstract: The Impact of Cyberbullying Victimization on Psychosocial Behaviors Among College Students during the Covid-19 Pandemic: The Indirect Effect of a Sense of Purpose in Life (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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342P The Impact of Cyberbullying Victimization on Psychosocial Behaviors Among College Students during the Covid-19 Pandemic: The Indirect Effect of a Sense of Purpose in Life

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Jeoung Min Lee, PhD, Assistant professor, Wichita State University
Hailey Hyunjin Choi, PhD, Assistant professor, Missouri State University
Jinhee Park, PhD, Assistant professor, Auburn University
Heekyung Lee, PhD, Assistant professor, The University of Texas at El Paso
Jaegoo Lee, PhD, Associate Professor, Jackson State University, Jackson, MS
Background and Purpose: During the COVID-19 pandemic, limited outside activities have led college students to spend more time on digital platforms to communicate with friends via text message, social networking (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.), or video conferencing tools (e.g., Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.). In doing so, college students might face more opportunities to become involved in cyberbullying. Although, given that cyberbullying victimization is associated with psychosocial and behavioral problems, relatively little work has been done to identify protective factors of cyberbullying victimization among college students, including how such protective factors help victims navigate their psychosocial and behavioral problems. This study focuses on 1) how cyberbullying victimization is related to college students’ depression, suicidal thoughts/behaviors, and cyberbullying perpetration behaviors, and 2) how the association between cyberbullying victimization and their depression, cyberbullying perpetration, and suicidal thoughts/behaviors (direct associations) is explained by a sense of purpose in life (indirect associations).

Method: The data for the cross-sectional, self-administered survey study were collected via an online using web-based software (Qualtrics and QuestionPro). Study participants were recruited at two universities in the Midwest and South-central U.S. The cases included in the analysis consisted of 314 college students aged 18 to 24 and over (27.8% males and 69.9% females). Measures for the study included sex, age, race/ethnicity, cyberbullying victimization, a sense of purpose in life, depression, suicidal thoughts/behaviors, and cyberbullying perpetration. In addition to descriptive statistics and Pearson’s coefficient correlation, Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was employed using Mplus 8.4 to examine the direct and indirect associations. The indirect effects were tested using a bias-corrected bootstrapping method (based on 5,000 resamples). Sex, age, and race/ethnicity were included as covariates in the model.

Results: Cyberbullying victimization was positively associated with depression (β = 0.373, 95% CI [0.175, 0.646]) and cyberbullying perpetration (β = 0.1487, 95% CI [0.315, 0.728]), after controlling for the covariates such as sex, age, and race/ethnicity. There was a statistically significant indirect effect of cyberbullying victimization on depression through a sense of purpose in life (B=.177, 95% CI [0.064, 0.341]), after controlling for the covariates.

Conclusions and Implications: Cyberbullying victimization may restrict a students’ sense of purpose in life, and reduced purpose in life is subsequently associated with increased depression. These study findings further support the growing literature on cyberbullying among college students and inform mental health and physical health intervention programs by emphasizing a sense of purpose as an important pathway through which cyberbullying is associated with depression. Specifically, this study will emphasize the importance of fostering cyberbullied college students’ purpose in life to college staff, administrators, faculty, and practitioners and will provide them with strategies to develop campus-wide cyberbullying interventions.