Peer victimization and depressive symptoms in adolescence

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Annette M. La Greca - Committee Chair


Adolescence is an important developmental period for the prevention of chronic and recurrent depression. Peer victimization has been linked to high levels of depressive symptoms in adolescence, but further research is needed to study causation, possible moderators, and differences between types of peer victimization. Study 1 examined rejection sensitivity and gender as moderators of the relationship between peer victimization and depressive symptoms. Study 2 used longitudinal data to explore reciprocal causal pathways between peer victimization and depressive symptoms. Both studies examined three different types of peer victimization: overt, relational, and reputational. Adolescents (N = 413) in three local high schools completed a background questionnaire, the Beck Depression Inventory, the Revised Peer Experiences Questionnaire, and the Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire. Adolescents from one high school (N = 236) repeated the measures two months later. Regression analyses were used to test the moderator model and to test for prediction of change in levels of reported depressive symptoms and peer victimization. In general, peer victimization was predictive of increases in depressive symptoms over time and the relationship between peer victimization and depressive symptoms was stronger for adolescents who were high in rejection sensitivity. However, results show different causal and moderation patterns for the different types of peer victimization. These patterns of relationships were similar for boys and girls and adolescents from different backgrounds. The results further our understanding of the role of peers in adolescent social development and the development of depression.


Psychology, Clinical

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