Consistent associations have been shown between self-reported peer victimisation and internalising symptoms. In distinct literature, anxious and depressed youth have been shown to interpret ambiguous social stimuli in a manner consistent with social threat and rejection. The aim of the current study was to determine whether this sensitivity to social threat among anxious/depressed youth explains significant variance in the relationship between self-reports of peer victimisation and internalising symptoms. Two hundred and sixty-seven students in grades seven and eight (M age = 12.62, SD = 0.65) completed measures of their own symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as their experiences of being physically or relationally victimised by their peers. They also read descriptions of 10 hypothetical ambiguous social interactions and provided responses indicating whether they interpreted each scenario as indicating social threat (rejection/negative evaluation) and the extent to which they perceived it as victimisation. As expected, anxiety and depression were positively correlated with self-reported peer victimisation and with interpretations consistent with social threat and victimisation (social threat sensitivity). In turn, social threat sensitivity was positively correlated with both self-reported relational and physical victimisation, but moreso with the former. However, the relationship between anxiety and depression and victimisation remained significant, even after controlling for social threat sensitivity. Results suggest that a sensitivity toward social threat can influence self-reports of peer victimisation among anxious and depressed youth, but that the relationship between internalising and victimisation goes beyond this sensitivity.
- cognitive bias
- rejection sensitivity