Date of Award

8-1-2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

DiLalla, Lisabeth

Abstract

Sexual minority adolescents are at higher risk for a variety of difficulties, including traditional victimization and depression. Also, cybervictimization has been associated with higher rates of depression. However, little attention has been paid to investigating the relations between sexual orientation, cybervictimization, and depressive symptoms, especially within the developmental stage of late adolescence. In fact, very little cybervictimization research has been conducted within this age group due to an assumption that cyberbullying is a problem only seen in middle school and high school. One aim of the current study was to determine whether sexual minority older adolescents are at greater risk for cybervictimization than their heterosexual counterparts. Another aim was to identify the specific sexual orientation and gender categories that were associated with the highest levels of cybervictimization. The study also was intended to examine whether current cybervictimization predicts depressive symptoms above and beyond other predictors, such as current traditional victimization and perceptions of high school cybervictimization. Another goal was to determine whether current cybervictimization interacts with these variables to predict depressive symptoms. The final aim of the study was to investigate whether the relation between cybervictimization and depressive symptoms differed between sexual minority and heterosexual participants. The findings from this study demonstrate that older sexual minority individuals, particularly those who identify as homosexual, are at increased risk for cybervictimization. Also, current traditional victimization and cybervictimization interacted to predict depressive symptoms. The importance of current cybervictimization also was highlighted by the finding that the highest levels of depression were associated with high levels of current cybervictimization, with or without high levels of high school cybervictimization. Finally, the relation between cybervictimization and depressive symptoms did not differ significantly between sexual minority and heterosexual participants. This study examined pressing questions that were previously unanswered in the literature, and the implications for future research, cyberbullying interventions, and societal awareness are vast. This study should be used as a foundation for further investigation on both cyberbullying in late adolescence and cyberbullying among sexual minority individuals. Also, the findings from this study should be applied to the development of cyberbullying interventions for older adolescents with special consideration given to the applicability to the sexual minority population.

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