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Health Commun. 2019 May;34(5):560-566. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2017.1422098. Epub 2018 Jan 9.

The Longitudinal Association Between Poor Sleep Quality and Cyberbullying, Mediated by Anger.

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a Department of Communication Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences , University of Antwerp.
b Occupational & Organisational Psychology and Professional Learning , KU Leuven.
c Department of Work and Organization Studies , KU Leuven.
d Optentia Research Focus Area , Vanderbijlpark Campus, North-West University.


Adolescents tend to go to bed later and sleep less as they grow older, although their need for sleep stays the same throughout adolescence. Poor sleep has negative consequences on personal and interpersonal functioning, including increased aggressive tendencies. With adolescents' social life increasingly including interactions via digital media, these interactions may also become more aggressive when adolescents' sleep problems increase. One of the ways in which online aggression may be enacted is through cyberbullying. Although previous research has examined the role of sleep disruptions in offline bullying, the role of sleep in cyberbullying has not yet been addressed. Therefore, this study examines the longitudinal effect of poor sleep quality on later cyberbullying behavior. Thirteen- to fourteen-year-old adolescents completed self-report measures on sleep quality, anger, cyberbullying perpetration, and frequency of digital media use. Because one of the pathways through which sleep is proposed to be linked to aggression is an affective pathway, namely via angry affect, a mediation model of poor sleep quality predicting cyberbullying via feelings of anger was tested. Results from structural equation modeling and a bootstrap test indicated that poor sleep quality was indeed indirectly associated with later cyberbullying behavior through heightened feelings of anger, even when taking the effects of the use of digital media and previous cyberbullying behavior into account. This finding provides support for the proposed affective pathway linking sleep problems to aggression. As sleep problems and anger seem to play a predicting role in cyberbullying behavior, suggestions for cyberbullying intervention and prevention strategies are formulated.


adolescence; anger; cyberbullying; sleep

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