The ups and downs of support from friends when teens experience peer victimization

December 10, 2014

There are pros and cons to the support that victimized teenagers get from their friends. Depending on the type of aggression they are exposed to, such support may reduce youth's risk for depressive symptoms. On the other hand, it may make some young people follow the delinquent example of their friends, says a team of researchers from the University of Kansas in the US, led by John Cooley. Their findings are published in Springer's Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment.

Adolescence is an important time during which youth establish their social identity. Experiences of peer victimization can therefore have an effect on their social relationships, and lead to various psychological and social adjustment problems. Peer victimization may take several forms, including overt victimization, which happens when someone is physically attacked or verbally threatened by a peer, and relational victimization, which happens when someone's relationships are manipulated through rumor spreading or social ostracism. Overt victimization is more common among younger children, while relational victimization tends to become more prevalent during adolescence.

Findings have thus far been inconclusive about whether having the support of friends can actually buffer someone from the negative effects of peer victimization. The University of Kansas research team delved further into this matter by asking 152 Midwestern 14- to 19-years-olds from a predominantly Latino, low-income background to complete a series of questionnaires. Questions focused on whether they had been victimized by peers, what type of support they received from their friends, and whether their buddies were recently involved in deviant behavior such as stealing or skipping school. Teachers also completed a questionnaire about their students' rule-breaking behavior.

Overall, the University of Kansas team found that the support of peers generally influences the effects of peer victimization on maladjustment. However, this moderating effect differs depending on the form of victimization teenagers are subjected to and what type of relationship they have with their peers.

Among teenagers who suffered from relational victimization, the more support they received from their friends, the lower their feelings of depression. Such support, however, did not have an effect on the moods of those who were overtly victimized, or in other words, who were physically attacked or verbally threatened. Cooley believes this may be because relational victimization, as opposed to overt victimization, damages relationships during a time when youth are trying to establish their social identity within the peer group.

The more social support those experiencing relational victimization received from delinquent friends, the greater the chances that they would also take part in rule-breaking activities. Those experiencing overt victimization were more likely to exhibit rule-breaking behavior, regardless of the level of support or type of friends they had.

"Our study provides additional evidence suggesting that peer social support buffers the association between experiences of relational victimization and depressive symptoms in adolescence," says Cooley. "However, our findings also suggest that relationally victimized adolescents who receive high levels of social support and associate with delinquent peers may be more likely to exhibit rule-breaking behavior."
Reference: Cooley, J.L., Fite, P. J., Rubens, S. L., & Tunno, A. M. (2014). Peer Victimization, Depressive Symptoms, and Rule-Breaking Behavior in Adolescence: The Moderating Role of Peer Social Support, Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, DOI 10.1007/s10862-014-9473-7


Related Depressive Symptoms Articles from Brightsurf:

Severity of depressive symptoms among at-risk individuals during COVID-19
The levels of severity of depressive symptoms among at-risk individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK were examined in this study.

Frequent social media use influences depressive symptoms over time among LGBTQ youth
Frequent social media use can impact depressive symptoms over time for LGBTQ youth, according to research from a Washington State University communication professor.

The Lancet Psychiatry: Single dose of psychoactive component in cannabis could induce psychotic, depressive, and anxiety symptoms in healthy people
A single dose of the main psychoactive component in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can induce a range of psychiatric symptoms, according to results of a systematic review and meta-analysis of 15 studies including 331 people with no history of psychotic or other major psychiatric disorders, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

Study links depressive symptoms during pregnancy with lowered immunity in infants
A woman's mental health during pregnancy has a direct influence on the development of her child's immune system, according to a new study from pediatric researchers at the University of Alberta.

Digital intervention reduces depressive symptoms in people living with HIV
New study by Dr. Alicia Hong, Professor at George Mason University's College of Health and Human Services and her colleagues in China tests WeChat social media app intervention with 300 people living with HIV.

Researchers identify link between decreased depressive symptoms, yoga and the neurotransmitter GABA
The benefits of yoga have been widely documented by scientific research, but previously it was not clear as to how yoga exerts its physiologic effect.

Black teens face racial discrimination multiple times daily, suffer depressive symptoms
Black teenagers experience daily racial discrimination, most frequently online, which can lead to negative mental health effects, according to a Rutgers researcher.

Anti-inflammatory agents can effectively and safely curb major depressive symptoms
Anti-inflammatory agents, such as aspirin/paracetamol, statins, and antibiotics, can safely and effectively curb the symptoms of major depression, finds a pooled analysis of the available evidence, published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Teens taking oral contraceptives may be at increased risk for depressive symptoms
In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, investigators report that there was no association between oral contraceptive use and depressive symptom severity in the entire population they studied (ages 16 through 25).

How were oral contraceptives, concurrent depressive symptoms associated among adolescents, young women?
This observational study examined associations between depressive symptoms and oral contraceptive use in adolescents and young women and how those associations might differ by age.

Read More: Depressive Symptoms News and Depressive Symptoms Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to