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Links Between Early Personal Characteristics, Longitudinal Profiles of Peer Victimization in School and Victimization in College or at Work

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
Mara Brendgen, Frank Vitaro, Isabelle Ouellet-Morin, Ginette Dionne, Michel Boivin
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10802-021-00783-3.

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This study used a longitudinal design from age six through age 19 (N = 1206 (603 girls)) to examine the associations between anxious-withdrawal and reactive aggression during childhood, distinct profiles of peer victimization from kindergarten to grade 11 and victimization in college or at work in emerging adulthood. In particular, it was tested whether the predictive effect of personal characteristics on victimization in emerging adulthood would be mediated via chronic peer victimization experiences during the school years. Teachers evaluated children’s personal characteristics, whereas peer nominations and self-reports were used to assess victimization. Control variables included sex, parent-reported harsh parenting and SES. Longitudinal latent profile analysis revealed four distinct profiles of peer victimization during the school years: Consistently-Low (39.7%), Low-Moderate (42.8%), High-Decreasing (8.8%) and High-Increasing–Decreasing (8.7%). A subsequent 3-step regression-based path analysis supported the mediation hypothesis – albeit differently for different profiles of peer victimization. Specifically, compared to a Consistently-Low profile of peer victimization in school, a High-Decreasing profile was predicted by reactive aggression, but not anxious-withdrawal. In contrast, a High-Increasing–Decreasing profile was predicted by reactive aggression and anxious-withdrawal. In turn, elevated peer victimization profiles were associated with higher levels of later victimization in college or at work. The indirect effects linking the childhood behaviors to later victimization in college or at work – via elevated peer victimization profiles during childhood and adolescence – were significant. These results highlight the need for tailored interventions to optimize reactively aggressive or anxious-withdrawn children’s response strategies to challenging and potentially threatening peer interactions.

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