Academic journal article Child Study Journal

The Relationship of Peer Victimization to Social Anxiety and Loneliness in Adolescence

Academic journal article Child Study Journal

The Relationship of Peer Victimization to Social Anxiety and Loneliness in Adolescence

Article excerpt

This study examined the relations among overt and relational victimization, social anxiety, loneliness, and prosocial behaviors from peers. The Social Experience Questionnaire, Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents (SAS-A), Social Phobia Anxiety, Inventory for Children (SPAI-C), Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC), and Asher Loneliness Scale were administered to 383 adolescents (female = 238) in the 9th- and 10th-grades of a parochial high school. A Principal Components Analysis with VARIMAX rotation on the SAS-A, SPAI-C, and MASC yielded three orthogonal factors assessing fear of negative evaluation, physiological symptoms, and social avoidance. Consistent with prior work, boys reported experiencing higher rates of overt victimization and fewer prosocial behaviors from peers as compared to girls. Findings also supported the hypothesis that overt and relational victimization were positively associated with fear of negative evaluation, physiological symptoms, social avoidance, and loneliness. Finally, prosocial behaviors from peers moderated the effects of overt and relational victimization on loneliness. Implications of these findings for the role of peer victimization and prosocial behaviors in adolescent relationships are discussed.

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High rates of school violence involving bullies systematically targeting a group of victims have recently gained the attention of developmental researchers. Peer victimization has been defined as negative actions that are repeatedly directed by peers at a child through physical, verbal, or relational aggression (Crick & Grotpeter, 1996; Rys & Bear, 1997). Recently, Crick and colleagues (Crick, Casas, & Ku, 1999; Crick & Grotpeter, 1996; Crick & Ladd, 1993; Crick & Werner, 1998) delineated two forms of victimization, namely overt and relational. Overt victimization consists of harm by others through physical actions or threats of such behavior (Crick & Bigbee, 1998; Crick & Grotpeter, 1996). Conversely, relational victimization involves damaging relationships through purposeful manipulation and destruction (Crick & Grotpeter, 1996; e.g., spreading rumors, exclusion from peer groups).

Although significant advances have been made in the study of peer victimization, several limitations in the extant literature are apparent. First and most notably, investigations into the association between peer victimization and social anxiety have used measures of social anxiety that have not assessed the tripartite model of anxiety that includes cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptomatology (Craske, Barlow, & O'Leary, 1992). As a result, the potentially important relationship between peer victimization and social anxiety has yet to be comprehensively examined. Second, prior to the work of Crick and colleagues (Crick et al., 1999; Crick & Grotpeter, 1996; Crick & Ladd, 1993; Crick & Werner, 1998), the majority of studies failed to assess relational victimization. Finally, for the most part, studies have examined primarily male and child samples; few studies have examined overt and relational victimization in adolescents. This research contributes uniquely to the existing literature by investigating the relations of overt and relational victimization to cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms of social anxiety in a mixed gender sample of adolescents.

Examining the relations of overt and relational victimization to social anxiety and loneliness in adolescents seems particularly important for several reasons. First, the onset of social phobia often occurs during adolescence (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Therefore, understanding the extent to which victimization may serve as an environmental correlate to social anxiety has significant implications for assessment and treatment. Second, the increased importance of peers during adolescence may suggest an increased frequency of overt and relational victimization (Bern&, 1982). …

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