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A Population Study of Victimization, Relationships, and Well-Being in Middle Childhood

Abstract

The paper presents a population-based study on the association of victimization and peer and adult relationships with children’s life satisfaction, self-esteem, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. The study extends previous research by examining 2-, 3-, and 4-way higher-order interaction effects (moderation hypotheses) of adults and peer relationships, victimization, and gender on positive and negative aspects of children’s well-being. The study draws from a representative population-level sample of 2,792 4th graders (M age = 9.70 years; 48.2 % girls). Data were obtained via student self-report survey on the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI). Given the nested data (children within classrooms), we employed multi-level regression analyses. Positive relationships with adults and peers were most strongly associated with life satisfaction and self-esteem, whereas victimization was most strongly associated with depressive symptoms and anxiety. No significant 2- or 3-way interactions were identified. The 4-way interaction of gender, adult connectedness, peer connectedness, and victimization was significant for three outcomes; that is, victimization was particularly strongly associated with low life satisfaction, low self-esteem, and high depressive symptoms for girls with low self-reports of peer and adult connectedness. The findings have implications for promoting children’s well-being in school and community contexts, corroborating interventions that foster relationship-building skills and simultaneously reduce victimization.

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Abbreviations

MDI:

Middle Years Development Instrument

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Acknowledgments

The first and third author acknowledge funding from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, British Columbia, Canada. The research was supported by the Edith Lando Charitable Foundation, the SSHRC-funded Canadian Prevention Science Cluster, the United Way of the Lower Mainland, BC, Canada, and the Human Early Learning Partnership, UBC.

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Correspondence to Martin Guhn.

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Guhn, M., Schonert-Reichl, K.A., Gadermann, A.M. et al. A Population Study of Victimization, Relationships, and Well-Being in Middle Childhood. J Happiness Stud 14, 1529–1541 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9393-8

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Keywords

  • Children
  • Life satisfaction
  • Well-being
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Social relationships with adults and peers
  • Victimization
  • Population-based study