The Development of Peer Victimization in Adolescence
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Guided by a developmental framework, this thesis investigated the prevalence, continuity, and consequences of different forms of victimization across adolescence. From Grade 5 through Grade 12, over 3,000 youth completed self-report measures of physical, social, bullying, and sexual harassment victimization, as well as of internalizing symptoms, externalizing symptoms, and friendship quality. Developmental trajectory analyses identified three distinct pathways for each form of victimization, with most youth experiencing consistently low levels of victimization. Physical victimization affected a small proportion of youth in Grade 5 and became decreasingly prevalent with development, while social victimization was relatively common and persistent. Bullying victimization was common in preadolescence but declined through to mid-adolescence. Sexual harassment emerged as a new form of victimization as early as Grade 6, with most youth beginning to experience a low level of sexual harassment later in adolescence. There was evidence for heterotypic continuity in victimization: youth who experienced one form of victimization were likely to experience other forms of victimization. Furthermore, the form and frequency of victimization predicted increased risk for negative psychosocial outcomes. Findings from the study highlight the importance of early prevention and intervention, to protect youth from following trajectories of persistent victimization and of negative psychosocial outcomes. Moreover, interventions should focus on different forms of victimization as they become developmentally relevant. The social, biological, and psychological transitions that occur during this developmental period provide a framework for understanding the changing nature of peer victimization.