Bullying and suicide ideation: testing the buffering hypothesis of social support in a sub-Saharan African sample

J. E. Eze, J. C. Chukwuorji, P. C. Ettu, E. A. Zacchaeus, S. K. Iorfa, S. K. Nwonyi

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    Substantial evidence indicates that adolescents and young adults have a disproportionately high incidence of most forms of violence, including suicide. Suicidality often includes suicidal ideation. The present study examined the relationship between bullying and suicidal ideation, and further tested whether social support moderates the association between the dimensions of bullying (verbal bullying, physical bullying, and bullying victimization) and suicidal ideation among adolescent secondary school students. A cross-sectional design was adopted for the study. Participants were 394 students (249 boys, 145 girls) drawn from two secondary schools in Nsukka semi-urban area, in southeast Nigeria. Participants completed the Illinois Bully Scale, the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale, and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS). Hayes' regression-based PROCESS macro was used to analyze the data. Verbal bullying, physical bullying, and victimization were independently positively associated with suicidal ideation. Social support was not independently significantly associated with suicidal ideation, but it moderated the relationship between victimization and suicidal ideation. The positive relationship between victimization and suicidal ideation was strongest for adolescents who had low social support, compared to those who had moderate or high social support. This finding is consistent with the buffering hypothesis of social support, suggesting that supportive relationships for victims can mitigate suicidal ideation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)19-27
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Child & Adolescent Trauma
    Issue number1
    Early online date1 Dec 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


    • adolescence
    • bullying
    • school
    • social support
    • suicidal ideation

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