Publication Date

2014-05-15

Availability

Embargoed

Embargo Period

2016-05-15

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2013-05-21

First Committee Member

Annette M. La Greca

Second Committee Member

Alan M. Delamater

Third Committee Member

Neena Malik

Fourth Committee Member

Maria M. Llabre

Fifth Committee Member

Amanda Jensen Doss

Abstract

Objective. This study evaluated an empirical model of peer victimization (PV) in adolescents via latent class analysis (LCA) and latent profile analysis (LPA). The study also evaluated the relationship between PV types (i.e., overt, relational, reputational, cyber) and physical health problems (including somatic and sleep problems). Adolescent anxiety was assessed as a possible mediator of the relationship between PV and physical health problems. Method. 1067 adolescents aged 13 to 19 years (M age = 15.80 years; 57% female; 80% Hispanic) were recruited from two high schools in Miami-Dade County and were assessed at 3 time points, each about 1½ months apart. At each time point, participants completed the Revised Peer Experiences Questionnaire, the Cyber Peer Experiences Questionnaire, the Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale, the Somatic Symptoms Subscale from the Youth Self Report, and three items specifically assessing sleep difficulties. Results. Three primary aims were evaluated. Aim 1 attempted to replicate an empirical model of PV by Wang and colleagues (2010) and to examine whether an LPA approach would yield greater differentiation in PV patterns. LCA analyses revealed a partial replication of Wang et al.’s (2010) model, including a three-class structure, characterized in part by a low PV class and an interpersonal PV class. However, in contrast, Wang et al. (2010) identified a third class characterized by elevated PV experiences across the board (i.e., overt, relational, reputational, cyber, and verbal), whereas the third class identified in the current study was characterized by elevations in overt and reputational PV only. Subsequent LPA analyses did not provide further PV class gradation, and a one-class structure was determined to best fit the data. Aim 2 evaluated the direct relationships between overt, relational, reputational, and cyber PV and adolescents’ somatic complaints, sleep deficits, and excess sleep symptoms. Results suggested that relational, reputational, and cyber PV were associated with somatic symptoms; reputational and cyber PV (trending) was associated with excessive sleep; and cyber PV predicted sleep deficits. Aim 3 examined general anxiety symptoms as a potential mediator of the relationships between PV types and physical health symptoms; general anxiety acted as a mediator-like variable of the relationship between relational PV and each physical health outcome, but did not serve as a mediator-like variable for the other PV types. Discussion. The findings suggest that PV may have significant, detrimental effects on adolescents’ physical health, including somatic and sleep symptoms. Interpersonal forms of PV, including relational, reputational, and cyber PV, may be particularly harmful in this regard. Further, relational PV may negatively impact adolescents’ somatic and sleep symptoms via symptoms of general anxiety; additional research is required to assess potential mediators of cyber and reputational PV, such as depressive symptoms. The findings have implications for intervention and prevention, including: the importance of assessing PV experiences in youth with unexplained physical health problems; targeting mental and physical health sequale of PV experiences; and educating adolescents on safe, appropriate, and effective in-person and online interpersonal skills in order to prevent or minimize PV experiences.

Keywords

peer victimization; cyber victimization; physical health; adolescents

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