Social support, peer victimisation, and somatic complaints: A mediational analysis

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Abstract

Aim:

This study investigated the associations among social support, peer victimisation and somatic problems in children and adolescents. Specifically, we tested a model that posited a mediational role of peer victimisation on the association between low social support and somatic symptoms in three age groups.

Methods:

A total of 1570 Italian children and adolescents aged 9 to 15 years participated in this study during Winter 2006. Students completed self-report measures of perceived social support, somatic complaints and peer victimisation. A series of regression analyses were used to test the hypothesised mediational model.

Results:

Age differences emerged for somatic complaints and peer victimisation, with primary school children reporting more somatic problems and victimisation experiences than older participants. Three series of regression analyses, performed separately for the three age groups, confirmed the mediational model. Low levels of social support received by peers were associated with more reported somatic complaints and more peer victimisation. When victimisation was entered as the mediator variable in the last regression equation, the association between social support and somatic problems was non-significant.

Conclusions:

In our sample, social support was negatively associated with somatic complaints. In all age groups, this association was completely mediated by peer victimisation experiences. These findings may suggest the importance of using targeted screening and interventions to address peer victimisation and its negative consequences on children's and adolescents' health.

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