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J Adolesc Health. 2013 Jul;53(1 Suppl):S4-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.10.280.

Suicidal thinking and behavior among youth involved in verbal and social bullying: risk and protective factors.

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Division of Academic General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.



To identify risk and protective factors associated with thinking about or attempting suicide among youth involved in verbal and social bullying.


We analyzed data on 130,908 students in the sixth, ninth, and twelfth grades responding to the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey. Among students involved in frequent bullying (once a week or more during the past 30 days), we compared those who did and did not report suicidal ideation or a suicide attempt during the past year. Separate analyses were conducted for perpetrators only, victims only, and bully-victims.


Overall, 6.1% of students reported frequent perpetration only, 9.6% frequent victimization only, and 3.1% both. Suicidal thinking or a suicide attempt was reported by 22% of perpetrators only, 29% of victims only, and 38% of bully-victims. In logistic regression models controlling for demographic and other risk and protective factors, a history of self-injury and emotional distress were risk factors that cross-cut the three bullying involvement groups. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, a mental health problem, and running away from home were additional risk factors for perpetrators only and victims only. Parent connectedness was a cross-cutting protective factor, whereas stronger perceived caring by friends and by nonparental adults were additional protective factors for some groups.


A range of risk and protective factors were associated with suicidal ideation and a suicide attempt among youth involved in verbal and social bullying. Findings may assist in identifying youth at increased risk for suicidal thinking and behavior and in promoting key protective factors.

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