Multiple Dimensions of Peer Victimization and Their Relations with Children's Psychological, Social, Behavioral and Academic Functioning

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This study investigated the relations among victimization and psychological, social, behavioral, and academic functioning while considering how these constructs are conceptualized and measured. Victimization was treated as a multidimensional variable that can be distinguished in terms of form (relational vs. overt), informant (self vs. teacher vs. peer report), and its overlap with aggression. Participants were 99 ethnically diverse second and third graders from the mid-Atlantic region.

The observed relations between victimization and functioning were impacted by issues of informant, form, and aggression. When examining different measures of the same construct, correlations were more often statistically significant for same-informant pairs of measures compared to cross-informant pairs. Correlations between peer and teacher reports were stronger than correlations between self- and other-reports. Self-other agreement was higher for aggression than for victimization, suggesting that victimization is more individualistically experienced than aggression.

Peer and teacher reports of victimization were not significantly related to self-reported functioning and vice versa. Teacher and peer reports did not add to self-reports of victimization in predicting self-reported functioning. Peer and teacher reports of victimization uniquely predicted peer and teacher reports of functioning, but self-reported victimization did not make an additive contribution. These results provide evidence of a self-other dichotomy in the assessment of victimization.

Overt and relational victimization emerged as distinct constructs in exploratory factor analyses. However, they were significantly correlated, and self-reports of relational victimization did not uniquely predict functioning after accounting for overt victimization. There were not significant gender differences in the two types of victimization.

Aggression and victimization were significantly correlated. Peer-reported victimization was related to teacher-reported externalizing and school problems, but was not a significant predictor after accounting for aggression. This finding suggests that failing to account for the overlap between aggression and victimization might obscure the complexity of the relationship between victimization and functioning. The implications of these findings for future research are discussed.