was successfully added to your cart.

Subscribe to our newsletter

& get a copy of our new e-book
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Research Spotlight: Cyberbullying Victimization Negatively Affects Body Image

By Esther Calvete, Izaskun Orue, and Manuel Gámez-Guadix

Cyberbullying, the harassment of others via new technologies, is a severe problem that is associated with several psychological problems in victims. In particular, cyberbullying victimization has been found to increase the likelihood of depressive symptomatology in victims. However, to date, little is known about the cognitive mechanism that could explain the relationship between being a victim of cyberbullying and the development of depressive symptomatology.In this study, we examined whether cognitive variables and body image mediated the negative impact of victimization on depressive symptoms.With this aim, a sample of 1015 adolescents (Mean age = 15.43, SD = 1.09) completed measures of depressive symptoms at three waves (T1, T2, and T3) spaced 6 months apart, measures of body image and cognitive schemas at T1 and T2, and measures of CB victimization at T1. We found that cyberbullying victimization predicted a worsening of body image and cognitive schemas in victims.

In this study, we examined whether cognitive variables and body image mediated the negative impact of victimization on depressive symptoms.With this aim, a sample of 1015 adolescents (Mean age = 15.43, SD = 1.09) completed measures of depressive symptoms at three waves (T1, T2, and T3) spaced 6 months apart, measures of body image and cognitive schemas at T1 and T2, and measures of CB victimization at T1. We found that cyberbullying victimization predicted a worsening of body image and cognitive schemas in victims.

Cyberbullying negatively affects body image and cognitive schemas in adolescent victims

With this aim, a sample of 1015 adolescents (Mean age = 15.43, SD = 1.09) completed measures of depressive symptoms at three waves (T1, T2, and T3) spaced 6 months apart, measures of body image and cognitive schemas at T1 and T2, and measures of CB victimization at T1. We found that cyberbullying victimization predicted a worsening of body image and cognitive schemas in victims.

A girl is being bullied online

Cyberbullying victimization is linked to increased anxiety and depression among adolescents but the body image and self-views of girls are more negative affected than those of boys (Image source: Shutterstock)

The results regarding the body image are particularly relevant. Attacking the body image and appearance of victims is often present in episodes of cyberbullying. To this regard, frequent behaviors of cyberbullying include uploading and disseminating photos or videos of the victim that are cruel or harmful, sending cruel messages to the victim about his or her physical appearance (e.g., about being fat, having a physical flaw, or being ugly), rating on specific websites the images or photos of someone qualifying his or her attractiveness or the physical appearance, or “happy slapping,” in which recorded images of a person who is attacked or humiliated are taken and disseminated. Therefore, through these negative experiences, several victims develop a negative image of their body. This is especially relevant, given the value of body image—often configured as a central reference of self-esteem— for adolescents.

Cyberbullying victimization is linked to negative self-views

Furthermore, cyberbullying victimization can also negatively affect the construction of dysfunctional schemas of oneself and of social relationships. Namely, in this study, we found that being the victim of cyberbullying can lead to profound changes in the adolescent’s belief system. Through continuous insults and humiliation over the Internet, the victim may develop a negative view of him/herself as someone flawed and ridiculous. The victim can also learn that people intentionally harm others.

Also, in the current study, we found that the above-mentioned cognitive transformation and worsening of body image lead in turn to depressive symptoms over time. Thus, according to the findings of this study, changes in body image and dysfunctional schemas explain in part the association between cyberbullying and depression.

Body image was more affected in girls than boys

Interestingly, some gender differences emerged. The damage to body image as a mechanism to explain the effect of victimization in depression was a more relevant mechanism in girls than in boys. In our society, body image and acceptance of one’s own appearance are more relevant for women so that damage to one’s body image could contribute to the development of depression in girls to a greater extent than in boys.

Prevention and intervention in cyberbullying is a major challenge for educators and mental health professionals nowadays. The results of this study provide important information for interventions. Given the role of body image, intervention programs should include specific components to develop self-acceptance.

Link to the Primary Paper

Calvete, E., Orue, I., & Gámez-Guadix, M. (2016). Cyberbullying Victimization and Depression in Adolescents: The Mediating Role of Body Image and Cognitive Schemas in a One-year Prospective Study. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 22(2), 271-284. DOI: 10.1007/s10610-015-9292-8

 

About Esther Calvete, Assistant Professor, University of Deusto, Spain

Alternative Text

Esther Calvete is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Deusto (Bilbao, Spain). Her research interests focus on several forms of violence in adolescents, both from the perspective of the victims and the perpetrators. She also studies gender differences in the outcomes of victimization.

Esther Calvete on the Web
More on: Anxiety, Child Mental Health Care, Depression, Research
Latest update: March 15, 2017