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Peer Victimization and Mental Health Risk in Chilean Students

Abstract

Children who exhibit mental health problems are more likely to be targets of peer victimization. However, little is known about how mental health risk interacts with other individual and school-level factors in this relationship. In the current study, we explored the associations between peer victimization and mental health in 10,532 Chilean sixth grade students attending 405 of the lower SES schools in the country. Children were screened for mental health and classroom adaptation problems using standardized parent and teacher rating scales at the beginning of the school year, and completed questionnaires on self-reported peer victimization, classroom climate, and school climate at the end of the year, as part of an ongoing national school mental health program, which includes monitoring for school violence and school climate. Data were analyzed through logistic regression and multilevel analyses, incorporating sex, absenteeism due to physical health, school attendance, and individual SES as covariates. Results showed that the odds of being victimized by peers were five times greater for students who were identified at risk for mental health problems based on parent reports, and one time greater for students identified by teachers with attention and concentration difficulties. However, multilevel analyses showed that the relative contribution of mental health risk to peer victimization significantly diminished when other individual and school-level variables were included. Particularly relevant was the contribution of individual SES, classroom climate, and absenteeism due to physical health; and of school-level SES. These findings suggest the complex nature of the influence of mental health on peer victimization and the relevance of the social context interacting with student’s mental health problems.

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Author Contributions

VL: designed and coordinated the study, performed data analyses, and wrote the main part of paper. MM: collaborated with the design and data interpretation, wrote part of the introduction, edited several drafts of the paper, and collaborated with the discussion. CL: wrote part of the introduction and edited multiple drafts of the paper. JT: collaborated with data analyses and data interpretation, and edited the final drafts of the paper and resubmissions; BV: assisted with data analyses. PA: wrote part of the introduction and collaborated in the final version of the manuscript. CC: wrote part of the introduction and collaborated in the final version of the manuscript. MB: wrote part of the introduction and collaborated in the final version of the manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded by FONDEF IT1410132, and PIA-CONICYT Project CIE160009 of the Chilean National Commission of Science and Technology. 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. IRB approval was obtained from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso.

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Correspondence to Verónica López.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. The informed consent statement was given to all parents of all sixth grade students in each of the participating schools, guaranteeing voluntary participation, confidentiality of all information and safeguard of student’s health as well as their physical and psychological integrity. Additionally, students signed a similar informed assent for the peer victimization, classroom climate, and school climate measures reported by them, Last, at the start of the school year, the parents of all sixth grade students in each SFL school were asked to give informed consent for screening and intervention in mental health as part of the SFL school mental health program available for all students. Students’ responses were anonymous and the identity of schools participating in this study was kept confidential. The de-identified database was provided by the national SFL Program to the first author, with a prior written Memo of Understanding that guaranteed confidentiality and ethical use of the information.

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López, V., Murphy, M., Lucke, C. et al. Peer Victimization and Mental Health Risk in Chilean Students. J Child Fam Stud 27, 2608–2621 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1105-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1105-5

Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Peer victimization
  • Mental health
  • School climate
  • Chile