Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Albert Farrell


Peer victimization is characterized by acts of physical, relational, and verbal aggression that can contribute to maladjustment. Youths’ responses to peer victimization are guided by social information-processing (SIP) skills that impact their adjustment. Maladjustment can contribute to biases in SIP. Biased processing occurs when youth rely on existing schemas without attending to cues from the immediate social context. These processing deficits contribute to the enactment of problematic responses that may lead to further maladjustment. However, not all youth exhibit SIP deficits. A recent study identified four adjustment clusters based on differences in aggression, anxiety, depression, social acceptance, and victimization within a predominantly African American sample of adolescents (Sullivan & Farrell, 2008). These clusters included aggressive-victims, passive-victims, neglected youth, and well-adjusted youth. Data suggest that cluster membership influences SIP and responses to peer victimization. This study used latent profile analysis (LPA) and the Articulated Thoughts in Simulated Situations (ATSS) paradigm, a think-aloud approach to cognitive assessment, to examine differences in SIP between well-adjusted youth and subgroups of maladjusted youth in response to simulated peer victimization situations. Participants included a primarily African American sample of 523 sixth grade students who completed a series of self-report measures of adjustment. LPA identified a four-class solution that included: Aggressive-victims, Aggressors, Passive-victims, and Well-adjusted youth. This model closely approximated the clusters previously identified. However, the current solution includes a purely aggressive group whereas the prior solution contained a neglected group. A sub-sample of 176 students was then randomly selected to complete ATSS interviews. Logistic regression was used to examine SIP pattern differences across the groups. As hypothesized, aggressors and aggressive-victims were more likely to report intentions to engage in physical aggression compared to well-adjusted youth. In addition, aggressors were more likely to report beliefs that it is ok to fight in response to physical aggression compared to their well-adjusted peers. Further, well-adjusted youth were more likely to report intentions to behave nonviolently compared to their maladjusted peers. However, six of the ten hypotheses were not supported. Additional findings related to gender differences and situation-specific SIP patterns were identified. These findings have important implications for violence prevention interventions.


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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2010