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Traditional Victims and Cybervictims: Prevalence, Overlap, and Association with Mental Health Among Adolescents in Singapore


Traditional bullying typically occurs in schools and has been associated with a myriad of mental health problems. Recent evidence has indicated that cyberbullying may just be traditional bullying that is extended to the online world, but this possibility has received only limited study in Asian countries. This study explored the co-occurrence of traditional and cybervictimization and its association with mental health among 3319 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years in Singapore. Victims of bullying were categorized into mutually exclusive groups: traditional-only victims, cyber-only victims, or combined traditional and cybervictims. Results indicated that there were substantial overlaps between victimization in traditional bullying and cyberbullying and that traditional victimization was more prevalent than cybervictimization. Being a victim of either form of bullying (i.e., traditional-only or cyber-only victims) was associated with higher reports of internalizing and externalizing problems, and combined traditional and cybervictims reported the most internalizing problems. However, there were no significant differences in problem scores between traditional-only victims and cyber-only victims. The findings highlight the need to consider the extensive overlap between traditional and cybervictimization when investigating their differential association with adolescents’ mental health. Prevention and intervention efforts by school staff and mental health practitioners need to target both traditional bullying and cyberbullying in an integrated manner, and extra attention should be provided to adolescents who are victims of both forms of bullying.

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    School types in Singapore include “government schools” which are fully funded by the government, “government-aided” schools which are not fully funded by the government and maintain some autonomy in operations, and “other” schools, which include independent schools not funded by the government.

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    In mainstream secondary schools in Singapore, students are also assigned to one of three academic streams (Express, Normal Academic, Normal Technical) based on their performance in a national examination at the end of primary school.

  3. 3.

    We recognize that the SDQ Peer Problems subscale contains an item that addresses being bullied by others, i.e., “Other children or young people pick on me or bully me.” However, most other studies (e.g., Campbell et al., 2012) have used the subscale in its entirety. We repeated all analyses with the aforementioned item removed from the internalizing problems score. The results obtained were identical in terms of significance level (p < .001) and comparable in terms of effect sizes and odds ratios.


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We thank Qing Rong Chan, Rosie Lim, Jacky Tan, and Grace Yap for their assistance with data collection, and Denise Liu for her invaluable feedback on manuscripts drafts. We are grateful to the Ministry of Education Singapore, school principals, teachers, and counselors for their support and thank all students who participated in this research study.


Research reported in this manuscript was supported by Singapore Children’s Society and the National Healthcare Group Small Innovative Grant [grant number SIG/14007].

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Correspondence to Jerrine Z. N. Khong.

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Khong, J.Z.N., Tan, Y.R., Elliott, J.M. et al. Traditional Victims and Cybervictims: Prevalence, Overlap, and Association with Mental Health Among Adolescents in Singapore. School Mental Health 12, 145–155 (2020).

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  • Bullying
  • Cyberbullying
  • Victim
  • Internalizing problems
  • Externalizing problems