The objective of this study was to determine the association between cyberbullying and eating disorder symptoms in a national sample of 10–14-year-old early adolescents.
We analyzed cross-sectional data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study (Year 2, 2018–2020, N = 10,258/11,875, 49% female, 46% non-White). Data were collected using multi-stage probability sampling. Modified Poisson regression analyses examined the association between cyberbullying and self-reported eating disorder symptoms based on the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (KSADS-5).
Cyberbullying victimization was associated with worry about weight gain (prevalence ratio [PR] 2.41, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.48–3.91), self-worth tied to weight (PR 2.08, 95% CI 1.33–3.26), inappropriate compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain (PR 1.95, 95% CI 1.57–2.42), binge eating (PR 1.95, 95% CI 1.59–2.39), and distress with binge eating (PR 2.64, 95% CI 1.94–3.59), in models adjusting for potential confounders. Cyberbullying perpetration was associated with worry about weight gain (PR 3.52, 95% CI 1.19–10.37), self-worth tied to weight (PR 5.59, 95% CI 2.56–12.20), binge eating (PR 2.36, 95% CI 1.44–3.87), and distress with binge eating (PR 2.84, 95% CI 1.47–5.49).
Cyberbullying victimization and perpetration in early adolescence are associated with eating disorder symptoms. Clinicians may consider assessing for cyberbullying and eating disorder symptoms in early adolescence and provide anticipatory guidance.
Public Significance Statement
Eating disorders often onset in adolescence and have among the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric disorder. In addition, cyberbullying has increased in prevalence among adolescents and significantly impacts mental health. In a national study of early adolescents, we found that cyberbullying victimization and perpetration are associated with eating disorder symptoms. Screening for and providing anticipatory guidance on cyberbullying and eating disorder symptoms in early adolescents may be warranted.