Can criminological theory explain cyber-bullying? A test of general strain theory and the general theory of crime

A. McGrath1*, H. Lianos2

1 School of Psychology, Charles Sturt University
2 School of Psychology, Charles Sturt University

*corresponding author:

The current study tests the ability of two well-known criminological theories to explain a specific deviant behaviour: cyberbullying. Three hundred and twenty tertiary students aged 18 to 30 years completed an online questionnaire measuring experiences of cyber-bullying as well as constructs from both the general theory of crime and general strain theory. Overall, evidence to support both theories was obtained. In relation to the general theory of crime, individuals with lower self-control and greater opportunity to offend (measured by time spent online) were more likely to engage in cyber-bullying. In relation to general strain theory, greater strain predicted higher levels of self-reported cyber bullying, with this relationship being mediated by anger. Specifically, individuals experiencing greater strain were more likely to experience anger and subsequently more likely to engage in cyber-bullying.


Andrew McGrath teaches forensic and developmental psychology at Charles Sturt University. He is interested in juvenile offending, risk assessment, and bullying. He was the winner of the Allen Austin Bartholomew award in 2009.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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