The Role of Classmates’ Social Support, Peer Victimization and Gender in Externalizing and Internalizing Behaviors among Canadian Youth

  • Shalhevet Attar-Schwartz
  • Faye Mishna
  • Mona Khoury-Kassabri
Original Paper


There is sound evidence that increased level of peer support is linked negatively with youth vulnerably to internalizing and externalizing problems. Conversely, victimization by peers is associated positively with youth adjustment difficulties. The current study examines the mediating role of victimization in the association between classmates’ support and internalizing and externalizing behaviors, and the moderating role of gender in that association. The study is based on a sample of 243 7th grade Canadian adolescents. The results show that classmates’ support has a unique contribution to reduced adolescents’ internalizing behaviors above and beyond the effects of parental and teachers’ support. This association was partially mediated by youth victimization. Classmates’ support was a stronger predictor of internalizing behaviors among females compared to males. With respect to externalizing behaviors, the results indicated that while classmates’ support has no direct association with that outcome, parental support plays a central role in predicting externalizing behaviors. The association between classmates’ support and externalizing behavior was fully mediated by youth victimization. The current study highlights the importance of support by peers, with whom they interact on a regular basis, to adolescents’ well-being and functioning. The results also indicate that parents are still significant figures in adolescents’ lives. Those facts should be taken into account when intervening with young people.


Peer support Adolescents Internalizing and externalizing behaviors Peer victimization 


Author Contributions

S.A.S.: Wrote the paper and collaborated with analyzing the data. F.M.: designed and executed the study, collaborated with writing the paper; M.K.K.: Analyzed the data and collaborated with writing the paper and edited the final manuscript.


This study was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Grant number 410-2011-1001). The study was supported by The Halbert Center for Canadian Studies, the Faculty Israeli- Canadian Academic Exchange Program.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shalhevet Attar-Schwartz
    • 1
  • Faye Mishna
    • 2
  • Mona Khoury-Kassabri
    • 1
  1. 1.The Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social WorkUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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