Experiences of peer victimization are common in adolescence and have been associated with a broad variety of psychopathology in adolescence. The present study aimed to test whether some types of victimization are more harmful than others; whether the harms associated with different types of peer victimization are specific to particular domains of psychopathology; and whether these relationships vary by gender. Participants included adolescents aged 14–15 from a nationally representative cohort study (n= 3335; mean age 14.4 years; 49.1% female; 90.1% spoke English as the main language at home). Participants provided self-report information on their experiences of peer victimization, as well as symptoms of depression, anxiety, conduct problems, hyperactivity and inattention, and substance use. These data were analyzed in a dimensional and hierarchical framework using latent variable indirect effects modeling. The associations between peer victimization and psychopathology were not unique to specific symptom domains, but rather showed broadband associations with all symptom domains via a transdiagnostic association with general psychopathology. For example, an average of only 9% of the total relationship with each symptom domain was unique to the symptom-domain level, with the remaining proportion accounted for by higher-order factors (i.e., internalizing, externalizing, and general psychopathology). Further, the strength of the relationships did not vary as a function of the type of peer victimization experience (i.e., physical, verbal, or relational), and showed evidence of strict measurement invariance by gender. These findings suggest that peer victimization might present a useful target for the prevention of general psychopathology.
- peer victimization
- transdiagnostic psychopathology