Objective: A recent meta-analytic review of cross-sectional studies examining correlations between peer victimization and indices of internalizing problems indicates that victims of bullying are highly distressed. However, the reliance on cross-sectional studies precludes interpretation of the direction of effects. The present study was designed to investigate if internalizing problems are antecedents of victimization, consequences of victimization, or both.
Method: This paper provides a meta-analysis of 18 longitudinal studies examining prospective linkages between peer victimization and internalizing problems (n=13,978). Two prospective paths were examined: the extent to which peer victimization at baseline predicts changes in internalizing problems, as well as the extent to which internalizing problems at baseline predict changes in peer victimization.
Results: Results revealed significant associations between peer victimization and subsequent changes in internalizing problems, as well as significant associations between internalizing problems and subsequent changes in peer victimization. Several moderator effects were observed.
Conclusions: Internalizing problems function as both antecedents and consequences of peer victimization. These reciprocal influences suggest a vicious cycle that contributes to the high stability of peer victimization.
Practice implications: This study should further encourage steps to reduce bullying at schools.
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