This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Peer Victimization and School Adjustment in Early Adolescence: Friends' Social Adjustment as a Moderator




Tu, Kelly

Type of Degree



Human Development and Family Studies


Peer victimization is a relatively common occurrence during the middle school years and has been found to be negatively associated with school outcomes. Friends are thought to serve ameliorative functions for adolescents experiencing victimization. The present study sought to determine whether friends’ characteristics of prosocial behavior, social anxiety, and peer victimization were associated with participants’ school adjustment, and whether these friends’ characteristics moderated the association between participants’ peer victimization and school adjustment (i.e., academic competence, school liking, loneliness at school). Participants included 319 early adolescents and their mutually reciprocated close friendships (i.e., very best and close friends). Both self- and peer-reported nominations of victimization were measured. Multiple informants were also used to report on participants’ school adjustment and friends’ characteristics. Regression analyses revealed that peer victimization (both self- and peer-reports) was negatively associated with participants’ school adjustment. Furthermore, as hypothesized, friends’ social adjustment and early adolescents’ school adjustment were associated. In particular, friends’ prosocial behavior, social anxiety, and peer victimization predicted early adolescents’ academic competence, but not subjective feelings about school. Moreover, some dimensions of friends’ social adjustment protected against school maladjustment in the context of victimization. Specifically, the association between peer-reported victimization and academic competence was attenuated among participants with friends who had high prosocial behavior and low social anxiety and peer victimization, but exacerbated among participants with friends who had low prosocial behavior and high social anxiety and peer victimization. Further, the association between self-reported victimization and loneliness at school was attenuated for those with friends high in prosocial behavior, but exacerbated for those with friends low in prosocial behavior. Implications of these findings and the potential protective and vulnerability functions of friends’ characteristics are discussed.