, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 349-364
Date: 29 Apr 2006

Peer Victimization, Aggression, and Their Co-Occurrence in Middle School: Pathways to Adjustment Problems

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An ethnically diverse sample of 6th-grade students completed peer nomination procedures that were used to create subgroups of students with reputations as victims, aggressors, aggressive victims, and socially adjusted (neither aggressive nor victimized). Self-report data on psychological adjustment, attributions for peer harassment, and perceived school climate were gathered. In addition, homeroom teachers rated participating students on academic engagement and students’ grades were collected from school records. Victims reported the most negative self-views, aggressors enjoyed the most positive self-views, and aggressive victims fell between these two groups, although their psychological profile more closely resembled that of victims. However, all three subgroups encountered more school adjustment problems when compared to their socially adjusted classmates. Different pathways to school adjustment problems for aggressors and victims were examined. For victims, characterological self-blame for victimization and psychological maladjustment were the key mediators, whereas for aggressors, the significant pathway was mainly through perceived unfairness of school rules. Analyses by ethnicity revealed that African American boys were most likely to be perceived as aggressive and as aggressive victims and they were doing most poorly in school. Implications for intervention with subgroups of problem behavior youth and the particular vulnerabilities of African American adolescents were discussed.