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.