Defense Date

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Albert D. Farrell

Abstract

Stressful life events that occur within the context of interpersonal relationships are problematic for adolescents. Peer victimization, a stressful interpersonal event, involves acts of both physical and verbal harassment, and can contribute to psychosocial maladjustment among youth. Direct verbal victimization is a specific form of peer victimization involving name-calling and teasing that is particularly prevalent among adolescents, but has rarely been studied separately from other types of victimization.This form of victimization is associated with adjustment problems, including anxiety and aggression among adolescents. Despite the significant association between direct verbal victimization and negative adolescent adjustment outcomes, not all youth who experience this stressor are maladjusted. Resilient youth may possess certain internal or external characteristics that protect them from the harmful impact of direct verbal victimization.Support from one's family is one of these external characteristics that has been shown to serve a protective function in the face of stress. The purpose of the present study was to use structural equation modeling techniques to examine the longitudinal impact of experiencing direct verbal victimization on adolescent's anxious and aggressive behaviors. This study also examined whether perceiving greater support from one's family served a protective function against the detrimental impact of direct verbal victimization on adolescent adjustment. In addition, this study examined an alternative relation between aggression and family support to assess whether adolescents who are highly aggressive perceive less support from their family over time. Participants included a predominantly African American sample of 632 adolescents participating in a larger project that evaluated the effectiveness of a school-based violence prevention program. As hypothesized, experiencing direct verbal victimization predicted changes in adolescent's reported level of anxiety over time. However, experiencing direct verbal victimization did not predict changes in the reported frequency of engaging in aggressive behavior. In addition, family support did not significantly buffer adolescents from the negative effects of direct verbal victimization. Although, there were no gender differences in the impact of direct verbal victimization on anxiety and aggression, being female significantly predicted increases in level of anxiety. Overall, the current study's findings confirm that direct verbal victimization is a highly prevalent and distressing problem for urban African-American adolescents, and suggest that it has a significant longitudinal effect on adolescent adjustment. These findings have important implications for violence prevention interventions.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Psychology Commons

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