Publication Date

2017-09-27

Availability

Embargoed

Embargo Period

2018-09-27

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2017-08-22

First Committee Member

Annette M. La Greca

Second Committee Member

Amanda Jensen-Doss

Third Committee Member

Rebecca Bulotsky Shearer

Fourth Committee Member

Maria M. Lllabre

Fifth Committee Member

Monica D. Dowling

Abstract

Background. Peer victimization (PV) has been linked to poor psychological adjustment in adolescence. Research in younger populations has linked PV to poor academic functioning, but few studies have examined this relationship during the high school years. Low academic functioning (e.g., lower GPA, more school absences, and more disciplinary action brought against the student) has been linked to higher school dropout rates and poorer mental health in adulthood. The current study examined the trajectories of academic achievement across one year of high school for 9th, 10th, and 11th graders, and the extent to which PV was associated with those trajectories. Gender and internalized distress were examined as potential moderators and school disengagement was examined as a potential mediator of the relationship between PV and the trajectories of adolescents’ academic achievement. Method. Participants were 692 adolescents aged 14-19 years (M=15.62 years; SD=1.01; 79.9% Hispanic, 20.1% Non-Hispanic; 84% White, 12% Black, 4% Asian) recruited from a high school in the southeastern United States. Adolescents completed the Revised Peer Experiences Questionnaire, Cyber Peer Experiences Questionnaire, Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale and Social Anxiety Scale for Adolescents. Grade point average (GPA) data were collected from student records for all four quarters of the academic year in which PV was assessed, and one year after the assessment of PV. Data were analyzed separately by grade. For each grade, a latent growth model (LGM) was specified in order to examine the trajectory of adolescents’ GPA, and PV was examined as a predictor of the intercept and slope factors of the LGM (aim 1). Gender (aim 2) and internalized distress (aim 3) were examined as potential moderators and school disengagement was examined as a potential mediator (aim 4) of these relationships. Lastly, chronically victimized adolescents were compared to intermittently victimized and non-victimized adolescents on GPA one year after the assessment of PV (aim 5). All analyses controlled for gender and race, where appropriate. Results. Regarding Aim 1, when boys and girls were considered jointly, PV predicted the lowest GPA of the academic year (4th quarter for 9th graders, 3rd quarter for 10th and 11th graders) for all grades. PV did not predict the decline in GPA for any grade. Regarding Aim 2, gender differences revealed that all PV types predicted lower GPA for girls in 9th grade. No significant results emerged for boys in the 9th grade. In the 10th grade, only overt and cyber PV significantly predicted lower GPA for girls, whereas all types of PV predicted lower GPA in boys. In the 11th grade, reputational, over, and cyber PV continued to predict lower GPA for girls. For boys, however, PV predicted less severe decline in GPA. For aim 3, social anxiety and depression moderated the relationship between PV and GPA for 10th graders only. No significant results emerged for aims 4 and 5. Conclusion. In general, PV predicted lower GPA concurrently but did not predict change in academic functioning over the course of the school year. The relationship between PV and GPA differed significantly by gender, with girls more frequently affected than boys in the three grades. However, results for boys suggest the potential for academically-oriented (i.e., “nerdy”) students to be victimized, possibly due to their academic achievement. Some results pointed to moderation by social anxiety and depressive symptoms, but only for in the 10th grade. Findings were limited by the potential for spurious findings due to the high number of analyses run on each grade, the nature of missing data in the sample, and the limiting nature of identifying only one GPA trajectory per grade. Future research should expand on these findings to include a history of PV in order to further prospectively examine whether PV predicts change in GPA over time. Additionally, other mechanisms, such as externalizing problems, parent and teacher support, and perceived social support, must be evaluated for their role in understanding the relationship between PV and academic functioning, as assessed by GPA.

Keywords

adolescent; peer victimization; academic functioning; high school; internalizing symptoms; gender

Available for download on Thursday, September 27, 2018

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