Early Social Behaviors and the Trajectory of Peer Victimization Across the School Years

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Abstract

Research has established that long-term exposure to peer victimization is associated with higher levels of emotional and behavioral maladjustment. Yet, relatively little is known regarding predictors of stable versus declining victimization across extended periods of time. To fill this knowledge gap, the present study used latent growth curve modeling to examine the separate and unique contributions of 3 early social behaviors in 2nd grade (aggression, anxious solitude, and prosocial behavior) to victimization across 2nd to 8th grade. Five hundred and 76 youth (M = 7.96 years, SD = .34) reported their level of exposure to victimization once a year from 2nd to 8th grade, and their teachers rated each youth on the 3 social behaviors in 2nd grade. When examined separately, the analyses revealed that (a) all 3 social behaviors contributed to 2nd-grade victimization; (b) anxious solitude and prosocial behavior contributed to the trajectory of victimization differently for boys and girls; and (c) aggression and anxious solitude contributed to significantly different levels of 8th-grade victimization in girls. Of interest, some effects were stronger in boys during elementary school and others were stronger in girls after the transition to middle school. When examined simultaneously, aggression remained the only significant predictor of 2nd-grade victimization; both anxious solitude and prosocial behavior uniquely predicted the trajectory of victimization, and aggression and anxious solitude uniquely predicted 8th-grade victimization in girls. Results are discussed with regard to prevention of prolonged victimization, with attention to gender differences.

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