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Relative Importance of Online Victimization in Understanding Depression, Delinquency, and Substance Use

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Volume: 12 Issue: 4 Dated: November 2007 Pages: 314-324
Kimberly J. Mitchell; Michele Ybarra; David Finkelhor
Date Published
November 2007
11 pages
This study compared the consequences of online and offline interpersonal victimization in terms of depressive symptomatology, delinquency, and substance use.
The study found that the majority of the 1,501 youth (ages 10-17) who had used the Internet at least once a month for the previous 6 months reported a past-year online victimization. Of these, almost 75 percent also reported at least one type of offline victimization in the past year. As reported previously (Finkelhor, Ormrod, et al., 2005), the number of different types of victimizations experienced was more strongly related to the likelihood of negative symptoms than individual victimizations, including online victimizations. Still, unwanted online sexual solicitation was associated with depressive symptoms and substance use independent of offline victimization. Even after adjusting for the number of types of offline victimization and life adversity, youth who reported online sexual solicitation were almost twice as likely to report depressive symptoms and substance use. Possible explanations for this association are offered. Further research is needed in order to explore the complex relationships among these victimizations, characteristics of youth that places them at increased risk for multiple victimization, and effective interventions that can help reduce the risk for future victimization. Households with children in the target age group were identified through another large, nationally representative telephone survey, the Second National Incidence Study of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children, which was conducted between February and December 1999. Youth were asked questions about their exposure to various types of unwanted experiences on the Internet. Offline interpersonal victimization was measured with selected items from the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire. Other questions measured experiences of life adversity, demographic characteristics, and negative symptomatology. Youth were asked about the presence of each of the nine symptoms of depressive disorder and involvement in four delinquent behaviors in the past year. 4 tables and 30 references