Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Peer Victimization and Perceived Life Satisfaction among Early Adolescents in the United States

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Peer Victimization and Perceived Life Satisfaction among Early Adolescents in the United States

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Background: Peer victimization among adolescents has been linked to increased psychological stress, psychosomatic illness, anxiety, depression, lower self-esteem, suicide ideation and poor physical health. Purpose: This study explored associations between peer victimization and adolescents' perceptions of life satisfaction. Methods: Public middle school students grades 6th-Sth (N = 1,253) completed a questionnaire measuring peer victimization and perceived life satisfaction. Regression analyses examined relationships between peer victimization and life satisfaction across four race/gender groups. Results: Findings determined significant associations (P < 0.05)for reduced life satisfaction and peer victimization due to religion for white females (OR = 2.18); victimization for gender for white females (OR = 2.63); victimization for race/ethnicity for white males (OR = 2.54) and white females (OR = 2.70); victimization for sexual orientation for white females (OR = Z 71); victimization for a disability for white males (OR = 3.29) black females (OR = 3.95) and white females (OR = 6.59) and truancy due to bullying for white females (OR = 5.15). Discussion: Life satisfaction is related to specific peer victimization behaviors for early adolescents for specific race/gender groups. Translation to Health Education Practice: Whole school approaches to bully prevention might not be equally effective for specific race-gender groups in all situations. Comprehensive peer victimization prevention programs need to include, smaller-scale, culturally contextual focused intervention components for maximum effectiveness.

BACKGROUND

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, adolescents compose 14.5% of the population. (1) Despite variations in socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, adolescent developmental experiences are typically similar. Characterized by conspicuous physical, mental and emotional transition, adolescence is a critical period in psychological development. In particular, the psychosocial development paradigm for early adolescents can be heavily influenced by the peer group. (2)

Adolescent peer groups are frequently involved in bullying or peer victimization. School bullying has been identified as a problematic behavior among adolescents affecting academic achievement, pro-social skills and psychological well-being for both victims and perpetrators.(3,4) Bullying is usually defined as a specific form of aggression, which is intentional, repeated and involves a disparity of power between the victim and the perpetrator[s]. (5)

The prevalence of peer victimization in the United States is significant as a recent study of adolescents found prevalence rates of having been bullied at school at least once in the past two months were 20.8% physically, 53.6% verbally, 51.4% socially or 13.6% electronically. (6) African American adolescents report being bullied less frequently than white or Hispanic youth. (6,7) Gay and lesbian youth are more likely to be bullied than heterosexual adolescents. (8)

Special needs students are at increased likelihood peer victimization. (9) Additionally, males are more likely to be involved in bullying than females. (10, 11) Direct bullying is more common among males and indirect is more common among females. (11) Bullying behavior has a tendency to peak in early adolescence and decrease in frequency as adolescence progresses. (12)

Peer victimization in adolescence has been related to a number of measures of psychopathology. (13-15) In particular, the experience of peer victimization has been linked to increased psychological stress, psychosomatic illness, anxiety, depression, lower self esteem, suicide ideation and poor physical health. (13-19) Research investigating the relationship between peer victimization and life satisfaction (subjective well-being) among adolescents has been sparse.

Subjective well-being is an important construct for understanding psychological well-being and for overall mental health promotion. …

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