Author

Amy J. Kaye

Date of Award

8-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Cynthia A. Erdley

Second Committee Member

Douglas W. Nangle

Third Committee Member

Shannon McCoy

Abstract

Friendship and social support are associated with better outcomes for bullied children (Holt & Espelage, 2007); however, recent research suggests that children provide a range of different types of support to their peers. The current study was amongst the first to investigate the particular types of social support provided to peer victimized early adolescents. Specifically, it explored the role a friend’s support responses play in moderating the relationship between peer victimization and internalizing symptoms for early adolescents. Participants were 112 children (65 females) in 6th through 8th grades. Students completed friendship nominations and ratings of peer acceptance, as well as self-report measures of friendship quality, relational and overt victimization, depressive symptoms, social anxiety symptoms, loneliness, and the types of support responses that they provide to peer victimized best friends. Results indicated that some types of support responses provided by friends might be associated with worse outcomes for bullied youth. Aggressive and minimizing responses appear to be the most concerning, given their association with negative outcomes. Furthermore, the context in which the support is provided is important. Minimizing support responses were associated with depressive symptoms particularly for low accepted individuals and for those in high quality friendships. Confrontation support responses were associated with higher social anxiety symptoms, as well as with depressive symptoms for low accepted females. For low accepted individuals, adult-directed responses were also associated with social anxiety symptoms. Distraction support responses were also associated with greater social anxiety symptoms. Confrontation and relationally aggressive support responses are particularly important to consider, as they were the only support responses that exacerbated the negative effects of peer victimization, whereas other responses were more generally related to poor outcomes. Results also indicated that support responses are influenced by gender, the type of victimization reported to the supporter, and the social goals of the supporter. Preliminary implications for peer helper interventions are discussed. Future research should continue to explore differences in support responses depending on situational and individual factors, as well as include longitudinal and laboratory designs to examine whether changes in support responses are associated with changes in outcomes.

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