Date of Award

8-2005

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Cynthia A. Erdley

Second Committee Member

Douglas W. Nangle

Third Committee Member

Sandra T. Sigmon

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study was to examine a model of factors that place relationally victimized adolescents at risk for psychopathology. Specifically, the role of interpersonal vulnerability, friendship quality, and rumination in predicting symptoms of depression, social anxiety, and eating disorders was explored. Furthermore, gender differences in relational victimization, risk factors, and psychological outcome were examined. Finally, this study investigated risk factors and outcome associated with overt victimization in order to determine if similar patterns were found for both overt and relational victims. Participants were 195 adolescents (70 males) from grades 9-12 of high schools in Maine. Participants completed measures that assessed relational and overt victimization; interpersonal vulnerability; friendship quality; rumination; and symptoms of depression, social anxiety, and eating disorders. Results indicated that male and female adolescents reported similar levels of relational victimization, and that relational victimization was associated with negative outcomes for both males and females. Specifically, relational victimization was related to symptoms of depression and social anxiety for males and females, and eating disorder symptoms for females only. Additionally, rumination increases relational victims' risk of depressive symptoms for both males and females, and interpersonal vulnerability heightens the risk for depressive symptoms for relationally victimized females. Overt victimization was not related to any outcome variable for males, but was related to several risk factors and indices of adjustment for females, including interpersonal vulnerability; rumination; and symptoms of depression, social anxiety, and disordered eating. These findings suggest that the process by which peer victimization results in psychopathology is complex, and appears partially dependent on the form of victimization and gender of the victim. However, it cannot be assumed that relational victimization is only a female experience, and overt victimization is only a male occurrence. Indeed, males and females reported similar experiences of relational victimization, and female overt victims demonstrated poorer outcome than males. Several questions remain about underlying processes that result in the development of psychopathology for both relational and overt victims. Future research should continue to examine the complicated relationships among gender, victimization, risk factors, and outcome to better understand the pathways by which adolescent victims develop psychopathology.

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