Internalizing symptoms and health behaviors associated with relational peer victimization: An examination of perceived social support and hope in relation to youth adjustment
Seegan, Paige L.
MetadataShow full item record
Approximately 28% of youth ranging in age from 12-18 years have reported experiencing peer victimization (PV) at school. Negative consequences of PV include social and emotional maladjustment and increased internalizing and externalizing problems. Although many studies have examined the relations between PV and mental health outcomes, few have assessed the relation between PV experiences and youth’s health behaviors. Additionally, research has not yet clearly identified risk and protective factors related to PV. Participants completed assessments of relational PV, perceived social support from close friends, hope, depressive symptoms, and anxiety symptoms. In addition, participants were asked to wear ActiGraph accelerometers for 72 hours to assess participants’ levels of sleep and physical activity. Participants’ nutrition was assessed using daily food diaries. It was hypothesized that the likelihood of having elevated levels of internalizing symptoms increases as a function of being relationally victimized. It was also hypothesized that the likelihood of youths’ below average positive health behaviors increases as a function of being relationally victimized. Additionally, perceived social support from close friends was hypothesized to moderate the above-mentioned relations. Finally, it was hypothesized that hope would mediate the relations between PV and internalizing symptoms, and engagement in positive health behaviors. Participants consisted of 197 children and adolescents from two collection sites. The results indicated that relational PV was associated with greater odds of having elevated general anxiety symptoms; however, the significant main effect did not remain after adjusting for comorbid depressive symptoms. Relational PV was associated with greater odds of having elevated depressive symptoms, which remained after adjusting for youths’ general anxiety symptoms. Contrary to hypotheses, associations between relational PV and health behaviors were not significant. Similarly, perceived social support from close friends was not a significant moderator across all analyses. Regarding indirect effects, relational PV had a significant indirect effect on youths’ depressive symptoms, through hope. Contrary to hypotheses, relational PV did not have a significant indirect effect on youths’ general anxiety symptoms or positive health behaviors, through hope. These results help fill gaps in the current literature pertaining to the constructs of social support and hope, and how these constructs relate to relational peer victimization, youth’s internalizing symptoms, and youth’s health behaviors.