Persistent versus Periodic Social Victimization as Predictors of Adjustment

Children may experience various forms of bullying over various periods. The term “social victimization” refers to behaviors that are intended to harm the victims’ social status, relationships, or self-esteem. Among school children, such behaviors include social exclusion, malicious gossip, and friendship manipulation. Experiences of social victimization have been found to be associated with various signs of maladjustment. In a study designed to compare effects of chronic social victimization with effects of shorter-term victimization, Rosen et al. (2009) obtained self-reports of seven aspects of social victimization from 153 children when they were in grades 4 through 7. Latent class analysis was used to identify groups who reported high levels of social victimization in at least three grades (chronic group), in no more than one grade (nonvictims), those who reported decreasing victimization (decreaser group), and those who reported increasing victimization (increaser group). The children’s Internalizing problems were assessed in terms of scores on the Anxious/Depressed, Withdrawn/Depressed, and Somatic Complaints syndromes scored from CBCLs completed by parents. Across all groups, high fourth-grade scores for social victimization significantly predicted high scores on all three CBCL Internalizing syndromes 4 years later, when the children were in seventh grade.

Moreover, the chronic group obtained high scores on the CBCL syndromes across the entire period, with high scores being most persistent on the CBCL Withdrawn/Depressed syndrome. The decreaser group showed decreasing scores on the Somatic Complaints syndrome but not on the Anxious/Depressed or Withdrawn/Depressed syndromes. This indicated that depressive problems persisted in this group, despite the decline in Somatic Complaints. The increaser group did not show significant increases in problems by seventh grade, although it is possible that increases might have occurred later. As no significant gender effects were found, the data did not support the authors’ hypothesis that girls would be more affected by social victimization than boys. Although the overall results indicated rather complex associations between experiences of victimization and parent-reported problems, they clearly demonstrated that chronic victimization over the 4-year transition to junior high school was associated with persistent problems reported by parents.

Reference: Rosen, L.H., Underwood, M.K., Beron, K.J., Gentsch, J.K., Wharton, M.E., & Rahdar, A. (2009). Persistent versus periodic experiences of social victimization: Predictors of adjustment. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37, 693-704.