Suicide in Children and Adolescents: Relationship Between Peer Victimization, Cyberbullying

Mitch van Geel, PhD Institute of Education and Child Studies, Leiden University Leiden, the Interview with:
Mitch van Geel, PhD
Institute of Education and Child Studies, Leiden University
Leiden, the Netherlands What are the main findings of the study?

Dr.van Geel: We performed a meta-analysis, which is a way to statistically summarize effect sizes from earlier studies. Individual studies often provide varying effect sizes, which makes it difficult to judge whether and how strong variables are related. Furthermore, study characteristics (sampling methods, response rates, controlling for certain confounders) might influence study results. By using a meta-analysis it can be analyzed to what extent study characteristics are related to results; if a particular result only tends to be established in studies with certain designs (for example a convenience sample), we might wonder whether such an effect really exists; but if we find that a particular outcome is unrelated to study characteristics or found in studies with relatively stronger designs, we might feel more certain in concluding that a relation between variables (bullying-suicide thoughts or attempts) exists.

By using a meta-analysis we established a significant relation between bullying and thoughts about suicide, and bullying and suicide attempts, and we found that these results were unrelated to study characteristics. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr.van Geel: Mostly the result that cyberbullying as more strongly related to suicide thoughts than traditional bullying. This may be because victims of cyberbullying feel denigrated for a wider evidence, or because the event is stored on the internet, they may relive denigrating experiences more often. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr.van Geel:  Suicide is one of the most important causes of adolescent mortality; in the United States, between 5 to 8 percent of adolescents will attempt suicide within a year. We found that attempted suicides are significantly related to bullying, a highly prevalent behavior among adolescents, of which estimates suggest that between 15-20 percent of adolescents is involved as a bully, as a victim, or as both. This further stresses the need to reduce bullying and help the victims of bullying.  What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr.van Geel:  Studies should continue to further establish how cyberbullying affects children and adolescents, but even more importantly, we should continue to study how both traditional and cyberbullying can be reduced.


van Geel M, Vedder P, Tanilon J. Relationship Between Peer Victimization, Cyberbullying, and Suicide in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatr. 2014;():. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4143.

Last Updated on March 11, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD