Links between peer victimization and childhood and adolescent depression: A developmental psychopathology approach
The purpose of the current study was to clarify what developmental tasks (i.e., emotion regulation, sense of self) might be involved in the association between specific forms (i.e., relational and physical) of peer victimization and the development of depressive symptoms. The role of gender was also assessed in these associations. Participants consisted of 82 5th graders recruited from two elementary schools in a large Midwestern city. Physical and relational victimization were assessed via teacher report, and children provided self reports of depressive symptoms, emotion control, and sense of self-competence. The overall level of victimization was associated with greater depressive symptoms for both boys and girls. However, contrary to what was expected, relational victimization was associated with depressive symptoms for boys, but not for girls. Higher levels of overall peer victimization significantly predicted greater depressive symptoms for children who scored higher on emotional control and lower on global self-worth. Whereas relational victimization interacted with lower global self-worth and higher emotion control to predict greater depressive symptoms for boys, relational victimization was negatively associated with depressive symptoms for girls. In addition, for boys, higher levels of physical victimization predicted higher levels of depressive symptoms when in the context of low emotion control and high self-worth, and also in the face of high emotion control and low self-worth. Gender differences in the roles of specific forms of self-competence (e.g., athletic competence) were also found. Results suggest the significance of further considering how the negotiation of developmental tasks may contribute to vulnerability to depression in the face of interpersonal stress and what gender differences may be involved.