Abstract: The Effect of Traditional Bullying and Cyberbullying on Suicidal Ideation in Korean Adolescents: Mediating Effect of Depression (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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456P The Effect of Traditional Bullying and Cyberbullying on Suicidal Ideation in Korean Adolescents: Mediating Effect of Depression

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Yeonggeul Lee, PhD, Researcher, University of Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)
Yein Yoon, MSW, PhD students, School of Social Work, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Background: While most OECD countries have shown a continuous decrease in youth suicide rate since 1995, the youth suicide rate in Korea is still increasing. One of the most significant risk factors for suicide among adolescents is the difficulties in peer relationships. As such, bullying has been empirically supported as one of the main causes of suicide among adolescents. What is also noteworthy regarding bullying is that bullying behavior has deviated from the past traditional pattern, and poses a fatal threat to everyday life beyond time and space constraints due to the common use of smart devices and social networking services. However, despite this evolutionary trend, studies on the effects of cyberbullying on suicide among adolescents have not been sufficiently conducted. Therefore, this study aims to 1) investigate the effect of traditional bullying and cyberbullying experiences on suicidal ideation through depression based on the general strain theory; 2) distinguish the effect of traditional vs. cyberbullying on adolescents’ suicidal ideation.

Methods: This study analyzed middle school students from the 2015 Korea children and adolescent human rights survey. Bullying victimization experiences were measured through 12-items, and analyzed as a binomial variable in this study. However, in the case of a rare event like this data, the issue regarding underestimation may occur. Therefore, a propensity score matching was applied to increase the proportion of adolescents who have experienced bullying. As a result, middle school students who experienced at least one type of bullying and who had no bullying experience were matched (N=1,840). Depression is a continuous variable measured through three questions with a 4-point scale, and suicidal ideation (SI) was re-coded into a binomial variable. WLSMV (weighted least square parameter estimator) structural equation modeling was used to understand the relationships between these variables.

Results: The model fit of the proposed model was good (RMSEA=.033, CFI=.945, TLI=.934). We found that traditional bullying had no significant direct relationship with depression, while cyberbullying showed a significant positive association with depression (β=.227, p<.001). Traditional bullying was positively associated with SI (β=.180, p<.05), while cyberbullying did not have a significant direct association with SI. Depression was positively associated with SI (β=.227, p<.001). Although there was no direct relationship between cyberbullying and SI, it was found that there was a significant positive indirect relationship through depression (β=.106, p<.01).

Conclusion: This study examined the effects of traditional and cyberbullying experiences on SI among adolescents, focusing on the mediating effect of depression. Traditional bullying experiences showed a positive direct relationship with SI, whereas cyberbullying experiences had no direct relationship with SI. However, only cyberbullying had a significant effect on SI through the mediating effect of depression. This suggests that there may be differences in the process leading to SI depending on the type of bullying. Although cyberspace has characteristics such as anonymity and non-face-to-face nature that it is relatively easier to commit offenses like bullying, research on this is still insufficient. Future research considering the type of bullying should be further explored.