Cyberbullying in Relation to Adolescents' Dating and Sexual Behaviour: An Evolutionary Psychological Perspective
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Cyberbullying poses a social concern due to associated psychosocial issues that are experienced by both perpetrators and victims. Despite being associated with these problems, an evolutionary psychological perspective suggests that traditional bullying may be adaptive for some adolescents, engendering greater access to dating and sex by functioning as an intrasexual competition strategy to display preferred mating qualities or to derogate the mating qualities of others. To extend this previous literature, this study examined cyber aggression and victimization in relation to adolescents’ dating and sexual behaviour, with biological sex and power balance as moderators. Results suggest that overall cyber victimization was associated with more dating and sexual partners. Furthermore, above and beyond the overall levels of cyber victimization, victimization by equally powerful peers was negatively associated with dating and sexual behaviour, especially for females. Interestingly, frequent cyber perpetration against low-power individuals was detrimental in cyber contexts, especially for males, while frequent cyber victimization by low-power individuals was associated with more dating partners. Overall, cyber aggressive behaviours appear linked to dating and sexual behaviour in adolescence, however, there appear to be important differences in the way that cyber and traditional bullying relate to reproductively-relevant outcomes. Furthermore, the results demonstrate the importance of considering not only the frequency of involvement in bullying and victimization, but also the power balance between the perpetrator and the victim, when assessing the effects of cyber aggression.