Examining the potential mental health costs of defending victims of bullying: A longitudinal analysis
Number of pages
SourceResearch on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, (2021)
14 april 2021
Article / Letter to editor
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Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
It has been speculated that defending victims of bullying is stressful for youth, and may contribute to poor mental health among those who regularly intervene to defend their victimized peers. However, the extant literature is thus far primarily limited to correlational, single-informant studies. The current study examined the concurrent and prospective mental health costs (e.g., social anxiety, depressive symptoms) of peer-reported defending among 4085 youth (43.9% boys; Mage = 14.56, SD = 0.75). Moreover, we examined two potential moderators (victimization and popularity) of the association between defending and internalizing problems. Analyses revealed that there was no evidence of a direct, positive relationship between defending and internalizing symptoms. However, a positive, concurrent association was found between defending and social anxiety, but only among youth who reported that they were also victims - the association was negative among non-victimized youth. In addition, both peer-reported victimization and social status were found to moderate the longitudinal relationship between defending and later symptoms of depression. Specifically, among low-status highly victimized youth, defending was associated with an increased risk of experiencing symptoms of depression, whereas high-status youth who were rarely seen as victims reported decreased symptoms of depression at T2 if they also had a reputation for defending others. The findings suggest that defending others is likely not a risk factor for youth who are not already vulnerable and/or have the protection of high status, and may actually have a protective effect for these youth.
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