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09-08-2020 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 11/2020 Open Access

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 11/2020

Navigating the Healthy Context Paradox: Identifying Classroom Characteristics that Improve the Psychological Adjustment of Bullying Victims

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 11/2020
Hye-Young Yun, Jaana Juvonen
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The healthy context paradox—an unexpected pattern in which victims’ psychological adjustment worsens as the overall level of victimization in a classroom or school declines—implies that reducing the frequency of bullying or victimization incidents does not do enough to help victims of bullying. In light of this finding, it is imperative to identify protective factors that alleviate victimization-related distress in the peer ecology. The current study examines classroom-level peer victimization and peer-defending behaviors as moderators of the association between individual-level victimization and psychological adjustment. These classroom-level moderators were tested with a sample of 1373 adolescents (40% girls, Mage: 14 years) from 54 classrooms in South Korean middle schools. Consistent with past findings documenting the healthy context paradox, the results of multilevel modeling indicated that victimized youth experienced a lower level of depressive symptoms in classrooms where victimization was more common. Most importantly, bullied students reported fewer depressive symptoms, on average, in classrooms with relatively high levels of bully-oriented (i.e., confronting the bully), rather than victim-oriented (i.e., comforting the victim), defending behavior. These findings provide a more nuanced understanding of the role of peers’ defending behaviors toward bullied adolescents and have significant implications for anti-bullying interventions.

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