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Cyberbullying victimisation and internalising and externalising problems among adolescents: the moderating role of parent–child relationship and child's sex

  • H. Sampasa-Kanyinga (a1), K. Lalande (a2) (a3) and I. Colman (a1)

Previous research has found links between cyberbullying victimisation and internalising and externalising problems among adolescents. However, little is known about the factors that might moderate these relationships. Thus, the present study examined the relationships between cyberbullying victimisation and psychological distress, suicidality, self-rated poor mental health and substance use among adolescents, and tested whether parent–child relationship and child's sex would moderate these relationships.


Self-report data on experiences of cyberbullying victimisation, self-rated poor mental health, psychological distress, suicidality and substance use were derived from the 2013 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, a province-wide school-based survey of students in grades 7 through 12 aged 11–20 years (N = 5478). Logistic regression models adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, subjective socioeconomic status and involvement in physical fighting, bullying victimisation and perpetration at school.


Cyberbullying victimisation was associated with self-rated poor mental health (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 2.15; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.64–2.81), psychological distress (OR 2.41; 95% CI 1.90–3.06), suicidal ideation (OR 2.38; 95% CI 1.83–3.08) and attempts (OR 2.07; 95% CI 1.27–3.38), smoking tobacco cigarette (OR 1.96; 95% CI 1.45–2.65), cannabis use (OR 1.82; 95% CI 1.32–2.51), and binge drinking (OR 1.44; 95% CI 1.03–2.02). The association between cyberbullying victimisation and psychological distress was modified by parent–child relationship and child's sex (three-way interaction term p < 0.05). The association between cyberbullying victimisation and psychological distress was much stronger among boys who have a negative relationship with their parents.


Findings suggest that cyberbullying victimisation is strongly associated with psychological distress in most adolescents with the exception of males who get along well with their parents. Further research using a longitudinal design is necessary to disentangle the interrelationship among child's sex, parent–child relationship, cyberbullying victimisation and mental health outcomes among adolescents in order to improve ongoing mental health prevention efforts.

Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Ian Colman, E-mail:
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