How School Contexts Shape the Relations Among Adolescents' Beliefs, Peer Victimization, and Depressive Symptoms

J Res Adolesc. 2020 May 9. doi: 10.1111/jora.12558. Online ahead of print.


The present research examined how school contexts shape the extent to which beliefs about the potential for change (implicit theories) interact with social adversity to predict depressive symptoms. A preregistered multilevel regression analysis using data from 6,237 ninth-grade adolescents in 25 U.S. high schools showed a three-way interaction: Implicit theories moderated the associations between victimization and depressive symptoms only in schools with high levels of school-level victimization, but not in schools with low victimization levels. In high-victimization schools, adolescents who believed that people cannot change (an entity theory of personality) were more depressed when they were victimized more frequently. Thus, the mental health correlates of adolescents' implicit theories depend on both personal experiences and the norms in the context.