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We examine the emotional impact caused to victims of bullying in its traditional form, both directly and indirectly, as well as bullying inflicted by use of new technologies such as mobile phones and the Internet. A sample of 1, 671 adolescents and young people responded to a questionnaire which asked if they had been victims of various forms of bullying, as well as the emotions this caused. The results show that although traditional bullying affected significantly more young people than cyberbullying, the latter affected one in ten adolescents. Analysis of the emotions caused showed that traditional bullying produced a wide variety of impacts, with the victims being divided into five different emotional categories, while indirect bullying and cyberbullying presented a narrower variety of results with the victims being classifiable into just two groups: Those who said that they had not been emotionally affected and those who simultaneously suffered from a wide variety of negative emotions. The influence of age, gender, and severity on each emotional category is also analyzed. © 2009 Hogrefe Publishing.
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The Emotional Impact on Victims
of Traditional Bullying
and Cyberbullying
A Study of Spanish Adolescents
Rosario Ortega,
1
Paz Elipe,
2
Joaquín A. Mora-Merchán,
3
Juan Calmaestra,
1
and Esther Vega
1
1
Department of Psychology, University of Córdoba, Spain
2
Department of Psychology, University of Jaén, Spain
3
Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, University of Seville, Spain
Abstract. We examine the emotional impact caused to victims of bullying in its traditional form, both directly and indirectly, as well as bullying
inflicted by use of new technologies such as mobile phones and the Internet. A sample of 1,671 adolescents and young people responded to a
questionnaire which asked if they had been victims of various forms of bullying, as well as the emotions this caused. The results show that
although traditional bullying affected significantly more young people than cyberbullying, the latter affected one in ten adolescents. Analysis of
the emotions caused showed that traditional bullying produced a wide variety of impacts, with the victims being divided into five different
emotional categories, while indirect bullying and cyberbullying presented a narrower variety of results with the victims being classifiable into just
two groups: Those who said that they had not been emotionally affected and those who simultaneously suffered from a wide variety of negative
emotions. The influence of age, gender, and severity on each emotional category is also analyzed.
Keywords: bullying, cyberbullying, emotions, victimization, adolescents
There is broad agreement that bullying can be defined as a
form of aggression that occurs when an individual or group
intimidates, excludes, harasses, or mistreats, another or oth-
ers, directly (physically or verbally) or indirectly (threats,
insults, isolation, destruction, or theft of belongings, etc.)
(Olweus, 1999). A complex power imbalance arises among
those involved, making it difficult for victims to defend
themselves. Episodes are intentionally repeated over time
until they constitute a relational problem and also one for
the coexistence of those involved (Ortega & Mora-Mercha´n,
2000, 2008). When victims manage to defend themselves
promptly, pathological relationships and dependence on
the aggressor are diminished and negative effects may be
minor. This, in fact, is what many victims do. However,
when extended over a period of months, and if the victim
finds no help or support, then the phenomenon can become
particularly negative and the effects on the mental health of
victims extremely pernicious (Aluede, Adeleke, Omoike, &
Afen-Akpaida, 2008; Dyer & Teggart, 2007).
Victims of bullying always are affected by any vulnera-
bility, but this could be mediated by diverse conditions and
factors (Hunter & Borg, 2006; Kochenderfer-Ladd, 2004;
Kochenderfer-Ladd & Ladd, 2001). Frequently, internalized
fear may accompany the feeling of being defenseless, while
an angry and reactive fear may feed a stress reaction. Stress,
itself associated with reactive emotions such as anger, may
support an attitude of either confrontation or avoidance
and flight (Lazarus, 2000). Some victims show an adaptive
resilience which allows them to soften the emotional impact
of aggression. It is possible that this gives them the emo-
tional strength to allow them to manage this adverse situa-
tion successfully (Christle, Jolivette, & Nelson, 2000;
Schwartz, Proctor, & Chien, 2001). Others, however, expe-
rience negative feelings over which they have little control
and which affect their well-being and influence the environ-
ment in which they develop and relate to others (Graham &
Juvonen, 2001).
Over recent years the phenomenon of bullying has
become more complex in view of the widespread use of
Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by
adolescents and young people. This has opened a new line
of research on cyberbullying. In Spain, a nationwide study
by the Defensor Del Pueblo-UNICEF (2006), which
included questions about victimization and aggression using
Ó2009 Hogrefe Publishing Zeitschrift fu¨r Psychologie / Journal of Psychology 2009; Vol. 217(4):197–204
DOI: 10.1027/0044-3409.217.4.197
ICT, found that 5.5% of students reported having been
cyber-victims, whereas 4.8% admitted they were cyber-
aggressors. Our preliminary studies (Calmaestra, Ortega,
& Mora-Mercha´n, 2008; Mora-Mercha´n & Ortega, 2007;
Ortega, Calmaestra, & Mora-Mercha´n, 2008) performed
with specific instruments for the study of cyberbullying have
shown that including occasionally as well as severely,
approximately 20% of secondary and high school students
are involved in this phenomenon.
Cyberbullying is structured by a relational dynamic with
at least two well-defined roles: aggressor and victim. How-
ever, its communication channel, instantaneity, and the lack
of face-to-face contact bring differential characteristics: (a)
the communication scenario of the actors involved, which
apart from not being direct, could be extended in time and
space; (b) the possible anonymity of the aggressor (some
studies have found that in 20–30% of occasions the victims
are unaware of their cyber-aggressor’s identity, although in
50–60% of cases the phenomenon occurs among students
from the same educational center: Slonje & Smith, 2008;
Smith et al., 2008); and (c) its indirect character, as in the
case of cyberbullying, the aggressive behavior is always
mediated by the technological resource the aggressor uses
and through which the victims receive the aggression
(Ortega, Elipe, & Calmaestra, in press).
In this paper we hypothesize that despite its specificities,
cyberbullying retains the same basic roles (victim and
aggressor) and different levels of severity (occasional and
severe) as found in traditional bullying. However, we
hypothesize that the emotional effects on the victim are dif-
ferent. Specifically, we analyzed the similarities and differ-
ences of this impact according to the specific type of
bullying suffered (traditional bullying: direct and indirect
and cyberbullying: via mobile phone and the Internet) in
relation to age (school-year of the participant) and severity
of the aggression (occasional and more frequent). The spe-
cific objectives were:
(1) To describe the prevalence of different kinds of
victimization in the sample: direct and indirect bully-
ing, cyberbullying (via mobile phone and the Internet)
in relation to two levels of severity (occasional and
more frequent), age and gender.
(2) To analyze the emotional impact reported by victims
of both types of bullying (traditional and cyberbully-
ing) and establish differential emotional profiles in
both types of suffering and in relation to severity of
bullying, age, and gender.
Method
Participants
The original study sample was composed of 1,755 students
from seven secondary schools in Co´rdoba, Spain randomly
selected from the provincial school network. The data of
4.9% of participants whose responses were inconsistent or
who had not completed important parts of the questionnaire
were excluded. As a result, the final sample was formed of
1,671 adolescents (51.3% males and 48.7% females) distrib-
uted in three educational levels/ages: 1st year of Compul-
sory Secondary Education, n= 539 (12–13 year olds;
55.8% males and 44.2% females), 3rd year of Compulsory
Secondary Education, n= 534 (14–15 year olds; 50.1%
males and 49.9% females), and 1st year of High School
(Bachillerato), n= 598 (16–17 year olds; 48.5% males
and 51.5% females).
Instrument
We used the DAPHNE Questionnaire (Genta et al., 2009),
developed within the framework of the project ‘‘An investiga-
tion into forms of peer-peer bullying at school in preadoles-
cent and adolescent groups: New instruments and
preventing strategies’. A translation into Spanish of this ques-
tionnaire was used for this study. It is made up of three self-
report sections: ‘About you’’ (35 items), ‘‘About your
school’’ (11 items), and ‘‘About bullying and cyberbullying’
(37 items). The ‘‘About bullying and cyberbullying’ section
collects information, through multiple-choice questions,
about five areas: students’ access to ICT (3 items), direct bul-
lying (5 items), indirect bullying (5 items), cyberbullying via
mobile phone (12 items), and via the Internet (12 questions).
With the objective of improving the validity of responses, fol-
lowing the recommendations of Solberg & Olweus, 2003, the
following definitions of bullying and cyberbullying were pro-
vided in the questionnarie: ‘‘Bullying is behavior carried out
by an individual, or a group, which is repeated over time in
order to hurt, threaten or frighten another individual with
the intention to cause distress. It is different from other aggres-
sive behavior because it involves an imbalance of power
which leaves the victim defenseless’’; ‘‘Cyberbullying is a
new form of bullying which involves the use of mobile
phones (texts, calls, video clips) or theInternet (e-mail, instant
messaging, chat rooms, and websites)or other forms of ICT to
deliberately harass, threaten, or intimidate someone’’.
Next, examples of direct bullying were provided (hitting,
insulting, making fun of someone, etc.) and questions were
asked about this type of bullying: (a) frequency of victimi-
zation, (b) feelings associated with victimization, (c) fre-
quency of aggression, (d) frequency of observing episodes
of this type, and (e) behavior when observing episodes of
this type. The same sequence of questions was used to eval-
uate indirect bullying (lying or spreading false rumors about
someone behind their back, etc.). In order to examine cyber-
bullying, two types of cyberbullying were distinguished;
aggression using mobile phone (upsetting phone calls,
taking photographs and/or videos, e.g., being flamed, happy
slapping, ..., abusive text messages) and aggression via the
Internet (malicious or threatening e-mails directly to the
victim, or about the victim to others, intimidation or abuse
in chat rooms, abusive instant messages, websites where
secrets or personal details are revealed in an abusive way
or where nasty or unpleasant comments are being made,
social networking websites, file sharing websites, and
blogs). These were examined using a parallel structure used
198 R. Ortega et al.: The Emotional Impact on Victims
Zeitschrift fu¨r Psychologie / Journal of Psychology 2009; Vol. 217(4):197–204 Ó2009 Hogrefe Publishing
to explore traditional bullying, but with the addition of
further detailed items not reported in this paper.
Procedure
Once the educational centers which took part in the study
were selected, we made a first approach to request collabo-
ration and consent for participation in the study. Students
enrolled in all the school-years selected for the research were
then contacted and asked to participate. After obtaining the
appropriate consent, the questionnaire was handed out dur-
ing class sessions. A member of the research team was in
charge of handing out the questionnaires and gave precise
instructions. Anonymity and voluntary participation were
emphasized as well as the importance of honest answers.
The concepts of bullying and cyberbullying were explained
and any doubts expressed by the students as they answered
the questionnaire were cleared up. The average time needed
to complete the questionnaire was about 45 min.
Data Analysis
Identification of the victims was established from the
answers to the questions: ‘‘Have you been bullied ... over
the last two months?’’ for each type (direct, indirect, via
the Internet, and via mobile phone). The response options
for all cases were ‘‘I haven’t been bullied’’, ‘‘Once or
twice’’, ‘‘Two or three times a month’’, ‘‘Once a week’’,
and ‘‘Several times a week’’. When the victim reported hav-
ing suffered this kind of aggression ‘Once or twice’’ it was
considered to be occasional aggression. When the victim
reported having suffered aggression more frequently, this
was considered to be severe aggression.
As we analyzed the categorical variables, chi-square
contrasts and, when pertinent, contrasts ratios (ztest) were
used. Bonferroni correction was used to determine the level
of significance of the ztest because we made multiple
comparisons.
In order to obtain groups of emotions, a hierarchical
cluster analysis was used. The amalgamation (linkage) rule
used was Ward’s method and the measure distance was
the percentage of disagreement. A two-phase cluster analy-
sis was used in order to obtain groups of individuals based
on emotional impact. This method is an algorithm in two
steps: (1) bringing together previous clustering of the cases
into many small sub-clusters and (2) clustering the resulting
sub-clusters of the previous clustering. In the first step
Schwarz’s Bayesian Information Criterion is calculated for
each number of clusters within a specified range and the
result is used to find the initial estimation of the number
of clusters. In a second step, the initial estimation is refined
to find the highest relative increase in the distance between
the two nearest clusters in each step of hierarchical group-
ing. The distance measurement used was log-likelihood.
The distance between two clusters is related to the decrease
in log-likelihood as they are combined into one cluster.
The level of significance adopted for all the analyses was
p<.05.
Results
Prevalence of Traditional Bullying
and Cyberbullying Victims
Table 1 shows the prevalence of traditional bullying (direct
and indirect) against cyberbullying (via mobile phone and
the Internet) although the number of students severely
affected is not very high in our study. Overall, we found that
25% of participants were affected by some kind of bullying.
Some victims had suffered exclusively traditional bullying
(direct, indirect, or both; 15%), others exclusively cyberbul-
lying (via mobile phone, the Internet, or both; 5%), and
some both types of bullying (multivictimization; 5%).
Age (school grade) was examined in relation to all four
types of bullying (indirect and direct bullying, cyberbullying
via mobile phone and via the Internet). There were no sig-
nificant differences for indirect bullying or for cyberbullying
via the Internet. For direct bullying, victim rates were higher
in the 1st and 3rd years of Secondary Education (14.8% and
12.4%, respectively) than in High School (5.4%),
v
2
(2, 1,660) = 28.82, p< .01. For cyberbullying by mobile
phone, victim rates were higher in 3rd year students in
Secondary Education (5.9%) than among those in 1st year
(2.3%) or in High School (4.6%), v
2
(2, 1,641) = 8.70,
p=.01.
Gender was similarly examined in relation to all four
types of bullying. There were no significant differences for
indirect bullying. For direct bullying, victims rates were
higher for males (13.0%) than females (8.3%),
v
2
(1, 1,661) = 9.67, p< .01. In contrast, more females
reported being victims of cyberbullying both via mobile
phone (6.3% females vs. 2.4% males),
v
2
(1, 1,642) = 15.09, p< .01, and via the Internet (9.1%
females vs. 6% males), v
2
(1, 1,649) = 5.69, p= .02.
Emotional Impact of Traditional Bullying
and of Cyberbullying
The emotional impact the bullying generated in the victims
was assessed through questions: ‘‘How did you feel when
Table 1. Percentage of victims by type and severity of
aggression
Direct
bullying
Indirect
bullying
Mobile
cyberbullying
Internet
cyberbullying
Haven’t been
bullied
89.3 84.2 95.7 92.5
Occasional
victimization
7.5 12.4 3.7 6.2
Severe
victimization
3.2 3.4 0.5 1.3
R. Ortega et al.: The Emotional Impact on Victims 199
Ó2009 Hogrefe Publishing Zeitschrift fu¨r Psychologie / Journal of Psychology 2009; Vol. 217(4):197–204
bullied ... over the last two months?’ This question was
formulated for each type of bullying: direct, indirect, via
mobile phone, and via the Internet. In all cases the partici-
pant could choose one or several of the following options:
‘I haven’t been bullied over the last two months’’, ‘‘Embar-
rassed’’, ‘‘Worried’’, ‘‘Upset’’, ‘‘Afraid and scared’’, ‘‘Alone
and isolated’’, ‘‘Defenseless, no one can do anything for
me’’, ‘‘Depressed’’, ‘‘Stressed, tense’, ‘‘Not bothered’’,
‘Angry’’, and ‘‘Other (please state)’’.
Table 2 shows the emotions reported, by victims of the
four types of bullying. We analyzed these in relation to age
(school grade), gender, and to severity of bullying (occasional
or frequent). No significant associations were found for age.
Regarding gender, generally a higher number of females
stated that they felt diverse negative emotions. For direct
bullying, more females than males stated that they felt afraid
(25.4% vs. 9.3%), v
2
(1, 171) = 8.04, p=.01.For indirect
bullying more females than males stated that they felt wor-
ried (26.1% vs. 11%), v
2
(1, 256) = 9.33, p< .01, depressed
(21.0% vs. 7.6%), v
2
(1, 256) = 9.02, p< .01, and angry
(47.1% vs. 33.1%), v
2
(1, 256) = 5.21, p=.02;moremales
than females stated that they were not bothered (32.2% vs.
21.0%), v
2
(1, 256) = 4.12, p= .04. For cyberbullying via
mobile phone, more females than males stated that they felt
worried (30.6% vs. 5.6%), v
2
(1, 67) = 4.55, p= .03; more
males than females said that they were not bothered
(55.6% vs. 28.6%), v
2
(1, 67) = 4.17, p= .04. Via the Inter-
net, more females than males stated that they felt stressed
(13.7% vs. 2.0%), v
2
(1, 123) = 4.99, p= .03, and angry
(37.0% vs. 18.0%), v
2
(1, 123) = 5.17, p= .02.
Regarding severity of the bullying (occasional or more
frequent), generally severe victims reported more negative
emotions. For direct bullying, more severe than occasional
victims stated that they were embarrassed (35.8% vs.
21.2%), v
2
(1, 171) = 4.12, p= .04, upset (26.4% vs.
13.6%), v
2
(1, 171) = 4.18, p= .04, and depressed (32.1%
vs. 10.2%), v
2
(1, 171) = 12.46, p< .01; while more occa-
sional than severe victims reported that they were not
bothered (29.7% vs. 9.4%), v
2
(1, 171) = 8.35, p<.01.
For indirect bullying, more severe than occasional
victims stated that they were depressed (28.6% vs. 11%),
v
2
(1, 256) = 10.69, p< .01. For cyberbullying via mobile
phone, more severe than occasional victims stated that they
felt alone (33.3 vs. 3.4%), v
2
(1, 67) = 10.08, p< .01, and
stressed (33.3% vs. 3.4%), v
2
(1, 67) = 10.08, p<.01.For
cyberbullying via the Internet more severe than occasional
victims stated that they felt stress (25.0% vs. 5.8%),
v
2
(1, 123) = 7.56, p= .01.
Clustering of Emotions in Traditional
Bullying and Cyberbullying
With the objective of identifying the emotions that were most
related to each other, a cluster analysis was carried out with the
emotions (excluding the ‘‘Other’ category). Distance matri-
ces were calculated for each type of bullying (these can be
obtained from the first author). The analysis of the dendro-
grams obtained showed different groupings of emotions for
the four different types of bullying, as shown in Table 3.
The most differentiated grouping of emotions appeared
in direct traditional bullying in which six groups were iden-
tified. In indirect bullying and cyberbullying by mobile
phone, a similar grouping appeared, but with only five
groups of emotions. In cyberbullying via the Internet, a less
differentiated group, with three groups was found. In each
Table 3. Summary of emotion groups from the cluster
analysis for each type of bullying
Direct
bullying
Indirect
bullying
Mobile
phone
cyberbullying
Internet
cyberbullying
Alone Alone Alone Alone
Defenseless Defenseless Defenseless Defenseless
Depressed Depressed Depressed Depressed
Stressed Stressed Stressed
Afraid Afraid Afraid
Embarrassed Embarrassed Embarrassed
Worried
Upset
Embarrassed
Worried Worried Worried
Afraid
Upset Upset Upset
Stressed
Angry Angry Angry Angry
Not bothered Not bothered Not bothered Not bothered
Table 2. Emotions reported by victims of traditional bullying and cyberbullying
Not bothered Embarrassed Angry Upset Stressed Worried Afraid Alone Defenseless Depressed Othe
r
Direct bullying 23.4 25.7 41.5 17.5 10.5 15.8 15.2 13.5 11.7 17.0 12.3
Indirect bullying 26.2 11.7 40.6 23.4 9.0 19.1 5.5 7.4 5.1 14.8 9.0
Mobile cyberbullying 35.8 6.0 31.3 22.4 7.5 23.9 13.4 7.5 13.4 13.4 10.4
Internet cyberbullying 43.9 6.5 29.3 17.1 8.9 15.4 8.9 7.3 5.7 10.6 11.4
Note. The two categories more selected are shown italicized and the two least selected are shown in gray shade for each type of
bullying.
200 R. Ortega et al.: The Emotional Impact on Victims
Zeitschrift fu¨r Psychologie / Journal of Psychology 2009; Vol. 217(4):197–204 Ó2009 Hogrefe Publishing
case, the emotions ‘‘not bothered’’ and ‘‘angry’’ we found to
be independent from the rest.
Emotional Profiles of Victims of Traditional
Bullying and Cyberbullying
A separate cluster analysis for each type of bullying (direct,
indirect, cyberbullying via mobile phone, and the Internet)
was carried out in order to establish the emotional profile of
the victims. The variables included were the victims’ answers
to questions relating to the emotions they had felt after suffer-
ing the bullying, excluding the ‘‘Other’ category. All the vic-
tims were included regardless of the severity of the
aggression. The resulting victim profiles are shown in Figures
1–4. In the case of direct bullying, five distinctive clusters
appeared, whereas both in traditional indirect bullying and cy-
berbullying (via mobile phone and the Internet) just two clus-
ters were identified. The nature of the clusters is commented
on below, together with their composition in relation to age
(grade level), gender, and severity of victimization.
Direct Bullying
Figure 1 shows different ‘‘emotional profiles’’ for five
groups of victims. The A cluster is marked by a high propor-
tion of ‘‘not bothered’ and a low proportion of the rest of
the emotions. The B cluster is marked by a high proportion
of ‘‘stressed’’ and ‘‘angry’’, whereas ‘‘depressed’’, ‘‘not
bothered’’, and ‘‘afraid’’ are not mentioned by any of the
victims. The C cluster has a high proportion of ‘‘worried
and ‘‘afraid’’, whereas ‘‘not bothered’’ is not mentioned.
The D cluster covers ‘‘depressed’’, ‘‘alone’’, and ‘‘defense-
less’’, whereas ‘‘not bothered’’ is absent. The E cluster is
marked by the absence of ‘‘angry’’ victims and by a moder-
ate presence of other emotions: upset, embarrassment,
defenselessness, and loneliness.
No significant differences appeared in cluster composi-
tion in terms of age. For gender, there was a higher propor-
tion of females than males in the ‘‘worried and afraid’
cluster (25.4% vs. 9.3%), but this was not significant on
chi-square analysis; differences in proportions in the rest
of the clusters were less substantial.
The severity of the bullying was markedly associated
with the composition of the cluster, v
2
(4, 171) = 14.95,
p= .01. The proportion of occasional victims in the ‘‘not
bothered’’ cluster was significantly higher than severe
Figure 1. Victims who reported feeling each emotion
distributed by cluster: Direct bullying.
Figure 4. Victims who reported feeling each emotion
distributed by cluster: Cyberbullying via mobile phone.
Figure 2. Victims who reported feeling each emotion
distributed by cluster: Indirect bullying.
Figure 3. Victims who reported feeling each emotion
distributed by cluster: Cyberbullying via the Internet.
R. Ortega et al.: The Emotional Impact on Victims 201
Ó2009 Hogrefe Publishing Zeitschrift fu¨r Psychologie / Journal of Psychology 2009; Vol. 217(4):197–204
victims (28.0% vs. 9.4%). On the other hand, in the ‘‘alone,
defenseless, and depressed’’ cluster there was a higher pro-
portion of severe than occasional victims (28.3% vs. 10.2%).
Indirect Bullying
Two clusters emerged in relation to the emotions that the
victims of indirect bullying recorded; see Figure 2. Cluster
A covered all the (negative) emotions, with an absence of
‘not bothered’’. Conversely cluster B victims were ‘‘not
bothered’’ and were low or absent on the other emotions.
No significant differences were found in the clusters in
relation to age or the severity of the bullying. However,
there were gender differences, v
2
(1, 256) = 4.12, p=.04
with a higher proportion of females than males in cluster
A (79.0% vs. 67.8%) and a corresponding higher proportion
of males in cluster B.
Cyberbullying via the Internet
The clusters produced for victims via the Internet showed
two groups with a very similar configuration to those
obtained for indirect bullying, see Figure 3.
There were no significant differences in the clusters, in
terms of age or the severity of the bullying. There were gen-
der differences, v
2
(1, 123) = 4.75, p= .03, with a higher
proportion of females than males in cluster A (65.8% vs.
46.0%) and a corresponding higher proportion of males in
cluster B.
Cyberbullying via Mobile Phone
There were two clusters of victims of cyberbullying via
mobile phone, as for those obtained for indirect bullying
and bullying via the Internet, but with some differences with
respect to those profiles, especially as regards the ‘‘alone’’
emotion, see Figure 4.
There were no significant differences in the clusters, in
terms of age or the severity of the bullying. There were
gender differences, v
2
(1, 67) = 7.20, p< .01, with a higher
proportion of females than males in cluster A (59.2% vs.
22.2%) and a corresponding higher proportion of males in
cluster B.
Discussion
Our results indicated, as expected, that direct and indirect
forms of bullying which do not involve technology are more
common than those which use ICT. While nearly two in ten
felt themselves to be a victim of some traditional form of
bullying, only one in ten had a similar experience via tech-
nological means such as a mobile phone or the Internet. It is
worth noting that one in five victims perceives themselves as
victims of both types of bullying. These data are in line with
general trends described by other studies (Olweus, 1999;
Ortega & Mora-Mercha´n, 2000, 2008; Smith et al., 2004).
However, it is clear that cyberbullying might gradually sub-
stitute more traditional forms (Smith et al., 2008).
Again as expected, being a victim decreased significantly
from 12 to 17 years. However, in the case of cyberbullying
there was a significant peak in victimization by mobile
phone around the age of 14. This differs from trends found
in traditional bullying. There is more than one possible
explanation for this, but it could be related to the fact that
it is during the years of midadolescence (14–15 years) that
dating and courtship begin (Menesini & Nocentini, 2008;
Ortega, Ortega-Rivera, & Sa´nchez, 2008; Ortega, Sa´ nchez,
Ortega-Rivera, & Viejo, 2008). Contemporary dating and
courtship seem to include the widespread use of ICT, and
mobile phones in particular, but also the Internet. This argu-
ment is reinforced by the fact that it is females who report
experiencing more cyberbullying as victims. Gender differ-
ences are also an important factor in traditional direct bully-
ing where most victims are males. The classical gender
differences in the case of indirect bullying were not
observed in this study, which might indicate a gender ‘‘even-
ness’’ trend in this phenomenon. This gender ‘‘evenness’
may be more apparent in cases of psychological and rela-
tional bullying than in physical and verbal aggression
(which were more likely to involve males).
The main objective of this study was the analysis of the
emotional impact caused by victimization, and the search for
emotional profiles that might indicate the specific suffering
that each of these forms of bullying causes for the victim.
According to Ferna´ndez-Abascal (2003) it is possible to dis-
tinguish among families of primary emotions. Following
this idea, we would propose classifying victims’ emotions
into five different groups: ‘‘not bothered’’, referring to an
absence of a specific emotion; those related to a basic emo-
tion of fear – worried, afraid; those related to anger, with dis-
tinct levels of intensity – angry, stressed, and upset; those
associated with sadness – depressed, defenseless, alone;
and one moral emotion – shame. Our results showed that
the most common emotional response is being angry, espe-
cially in direct bullying, together with a range of other neg-
ative emotions; but also that an important number of victims
feel emotionally strong enough to state that these attacks had
not bothered them, particularly in relation to cyberbullying.
This last finding can be interpreted in different ways.
Maybe the difference is associated with the perceived emo-
tional distance from the aggression and/or aggressor when a
technological resource is mediating the aggression, or when
the aggressor is unknown, both of which are defining fea-
tures of cyberbullying (Slonje & Smith, 2008; Smith
et al., 2008). However, the significant proportion of partici-
pants who were ‘‘not bothered’’ in response to all kinds of
bullying could be interpreted in terms of personal capacity
to not feel affected (Christle et al., 2000). Also in direct bul-
lying, embarrassment stands out; an emotion which is hardly
ever mentioned in the case of cyberbullying. The perception
of anonymity could be interpreted as an element which pro-
tects victims from that disturbing social emotion as many
cyberbullying attacks are not obvious to others and remain
‘private’’ between the aggressor and victim.
202 R. Ortega et al.: The Emotional Impact on Victims
Zeitschrift fu¨r Psychologie / Journal of Psychology 2009; Vol. 217(4):197–204 Ó2009 Hogrefe Publishing
Age was not a significant variable in terms of the emo-
tional responses, a fact that requires interpretation. It seems
reasonable to suggest that there is a stability of emotional lit-
eracy during the adolescent years studied here.
With regard to gender, it was generally the females, more
than the males, who stated that they felt a number of nega-
tive emotions at the same time in the face of the different
types of attack. These results could be related to the finding
that females show a higher level of precision in the percep-
tion and understanding of emotions (Barrett, Lane, Sechrest,
& Schwartz, 2000; Mestre, Guil, Lopes, Salovey, & Gil-Ol-
arte, 2006) as well as the finding that girls place more impor-
tance on social contacts and friendships through ICT
(Thelwall, 2008). It is also possible that males do not feel
inclined to admit that victimization affects them emotionally.
We are not dealing here with ordinary conflicts or fights, but
rather an abuse of power and unequal responsibilities, all of
which could have more impact and in more diverse ways on
females.
Severity of victimization was associated with some dif-
fering emotional consequences. A higher proportion of
severe victims, regardless of type of bullying, reported feel-
ings such as embarrassment, stress, upset, depression, and
loneliness. These results support the idea that exposure to
prolonged episodes of bullying, of whatever type, worsens
the emotional impact on the victims (Aluede et al., 2008).
In conclusion, this study aimed at describing the emo-
tional profiles associated with both traditional bullying and
cyberbullying. Our results produced a higher degree of dis-
crimination of emotions linked to victimization in the case
of traditional direct bullying, where five victim profiles
can be differentiated, whereas only two victim profiles are
found in indirect bullying. These emotional profiles can be
assumed into the theoretical classification presented above.
The differences between traditional direct bullying and the
other forms, in terms of diversity in the emotional response,
could be interpreted as a result of heterogeneity of behaviors
included in direct bullying (verbal and physical attacks,
threatening, and taking belongings). These differences also
could be a result of the face-to-face characteristic of these
interactions, where victims have more emotional informa-
tion about their aggressors. Consequently, victims are per-
haps better able to ‘‘read’’ the intentions of the aggressor
and this may affect their emotional response to the aggres-
sion. However, it is necessary that further research is con-
ducted to explore these hypotheses.
In general cyberbullying produces emotional profiles
similar to indirect bullying, with some smaller differences
related to whether the bullying is via mobile phone or the
Internet. Bullying via mobile phone is less likely to provoke
feelings of loneliness than bullying via the Internet or indi-
rect bullying. This is interesting and further research is nec-
essary to understand the differences found here.
These data do not support the hypothesis we set out
when we predicted that there would be a different impact
of cyberbullying compared to traditional bullying. On the
contrary, the data reinforce the characterization of cyberbul-
lying as an indirect form of bullying (Slonje & Smith,
2008). However, ‘‘not bothered’’ and ‘‘angry’’ are two inde-
pendent emotions in all types of bullying. Taken together,
these results reinforce the suggestion that it is important to
consider the four types of bullying studied as different,
but related, phenomena. It is worth noting that anger appears
as an independent emotion in all types of bullying. This
emotion seems to be a key element in the emotional dysreg-
ulation that some victims show (Garner & Lemerise, 2007;
Kelly, Schwartz, Gorman, & Nakamoto, 2008; Schwartz
et al., 2001). It would be interesting to examine the role
of anger in the different emotional profiles more precisely,
taking into account the diverse roles involved in bullying.
The emotional profiles do not show differencesin relation
to the age groups studied. There are consistent gender differ-
ences, with those ‘‘not bothered’’ comprising more male
victims and those emotionally affected more often female.
Severity did turn out to be a decisive factor in the anal-
ysis of the emotional profiles but only for direct bullying.
The ‘‘not bothered’’ profile corresponded significantly to
the occasional bullying phenomenon whereas the ‘‘alone,
defenseless and depressed’’ profile corresponded to severe
victimization, which confirms the negative effect that the
persistent suffering of this kind of experience can cause
(Dyert & Teggart, 2007). It is possible that some of the
factors which differentiate cyberbullying and indirect bully-
ing from direct bullying (e.g., the absence of face-to-face
contact) may mediate the relationship between the frequency
of the aggression and its emotional impact. However, it is
not possible to examine this hypothesis using the data from
this study.
This study has a number of limitations which will have to
be addressed in future research. It is evident that a local sam-
ple may contain cultural biases which may not be present in
international studies. Moreover, the reliance on a self-report
instrument means that we have to be cautious in making any
generalizations in relation to the emotional consequences of
bullying in its different forms. However, eventhough this has
been an exploratory study, our results point to an interesting
research line that could, if these trends are confirmed in other
studies, establish a framework of the emotional effects
caused by indirect bullying (traditional and cyberbullying)
in contrast to direct bullying. Future research needs to iden-
tify the specific factors responsible for the different emotional
impact of aggression on the victims and which of these could
be useful to manage and minimize such impact. In this
respect, the analysis of the ways in which individuals process
social and emotional information, as well as emotion regula-
tion, could be particularly interesting.
Acknowledgments
This study was carried out in the framework of National
Research Plan (SEJ-2007-60673) and HUM-02175 Excel-
lence Research Projects of Andalusian PAIDI, and the
European Daphne Project (JLS/2096/DAP-l/241YC 30-CE-
0120045/00-79). The first author received support from the
Prof-Ex. Programme (2008-0106) by the Spanish MICINN
to be a Visiting Professor at the University of Greenwich,
UK. The authors are grateful for the support received.
R. Ortega et al.: The Emotional Impact on Victims 203
Ó2009 Hogrefe Publishing Zeitschrift fu¨r Psychologie / Journal of Psychology 2009; Vol. 217(4):197–204
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Rosario Ortega
Faculty Science of Education
Av. S. Alberto Magno s/n
14004 Cordoba
Spain
E-mail ed1orrur@uco.es
204 R. Ortega et al.: The Emotional Impact on Victims
Zeitschrift fu¨r Psychologie / Journal of Psychology 2009; Vol. 217(4):197–204 Ó2009 Hogrefe Publishing
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