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Attributions about Peer Victimization in US and Korean Adolescents and Associations with Internalizing Problems

Abstract

Although there is cultural variability in how individuals make attributions for their own and others’ behaviors, cultural variation in youth’s attributions about peer victimization and their relation with internalizing problems has gone unexamined. To address this issue, adolescents from the U.S. (n = 292, 60% female, 79.5% White, Mage = 13.6, SD = 0.65) and Korea (n = 462, 50.2% female, Mage = 13.7, SD = 0.58) reported on their peer victimization, depressive symptoms, social anxiety, self-worth, and rated their attributions to vignettes about peer victimization. Multigroup confirmatory analyses found that Korean and American youth conceptualized characterological self-blame, behavioral self-blame, and externalization of blame similarly. However, Korean youth differentially endorsed each of the three types of attributions, while U.S. adolescents endorsed characterological self-blame and behavioral self-blame at similar levels. Attributions had unique relations with internalizing problems (depression, social anxiety, global self-worth) in each culture. In multigroup SEM analyses, characterological self-blame predicted all internalizing problems for U.S. adolescents, while behavioral self-blame was not uniquely related to internalizing problems. For Korean adolescents, behavioral self-blame significantly predicted all internalizing problems, whereas characterological self-blame predicted global self-worth only. The results suggest that attributions about victimization have different adjustment implications in Korea than in the U.S.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the children who participated in the study and the schools and teachers who helped to facilitate data collection. The authors would also like to thank collaborators at Yonsei University in South Korea and undergraduate research assistants at the University of Alabama who assisted in data collection and input. Joo Young Yang was a graduate student at the University of Alabama during the data collection for this study.

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J.Y. conceived of the study, designed the study, collected the data, performed the statistical analyses, interpreted findings, and drafted the manuscript; K.M. helped to conceive of the study, participated in the study design, and helped interpret findings and draft the manuscript; S.S. participated in the data collection and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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No funding was received for this research.

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The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Correspondence to Joo Young Yang.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The questionnaires and methodology for this study was approved by the Human Research Ethics committee of the University of Alabama (Protocol ID: 18-08-1415) and by Yonsei University Institutional Review Board.

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Consistent with Federal Regulation 45.46.116, and with approval by the University of Alabama Institutional Review Board, parents were informed about the study and were asked to contact the researchers or the school if they had any questions or did not want their child to participate. Children also gave their assent before every data collection session.

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Yang, J.Y., McDonald, K.L. & Seo, S. Attributions about Peer Victimization in US and Korean Adolescents and Associations with Internalizing Problems. J Youth Adolescence (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-022-01622-4

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Keywords

  • Victimization
  • Attributions
  • Self-blame
  • Internalizing problems
  • Cross-cultural