Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF SARA J. W. BIEBL, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Child Clinical Psychology, presented on June 14th, 2010 Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: A DIATHESIS-STRESS MODEL OF VICTIMIZATION: RELATIONS AMONG TEMPERAMENT, PEER VICTIMIZATION, PSYCHOPATHOLOGY AND HEALTH PROBLEMS MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Lisabeth F. DiLalla, Ph.D. Youth who are victimized by their peers are more likely to develop symptoms of psychopathology and health problems in adolescence and adulthood. Also, temperamental traits of behavioral inhibition and emotional reactivity have been found to be significant risk factors for the development of mental and physical health problems. Diathesis-stress models of psychopathology indicate that the interaction between temperament and experiences of trauma may lead an individual to develop psychopathology. Most studies using a biosocial model of psychopathology, however, have focused more on experiences of physical and sexual abuse rather than experiences of peer abuse. No studies to date have examined how experiences of peer victimization moderate the relationship between temperament and later experiences of psychopathology and health problems, which was the primary focus of the present study. A second aim of the present study was to examine how the stability of victimization throughout childhood related to health problems in adolescence. Seventy 12- to 20-year-old youth participated in the present longitudinal study. This longitudinal study included three specific time points. At time 1, when participants were five years of age, they engaged in a 20-minute peer play interaction and their parents completed temperament measures. Tapes of the peer play interaction were rated by trained coders for instances of peer victimization. During time 2, these same youth were between the ages of 10 and 18 and were contacted again and asked to complete measures related to peer victimization. Finally, at time 3, which was the present study, participants were between the ages of 12 and 20 and completed a 1-hour telephone interview which was used to obtain information about experiences of peer victimization as well as mental and physical health outcomes. Results from the present study indicated that youth with specific early temperamental traits (behaviorally inhibited and difficult) and who experienced peer victimization that is impairing appeared to be at multiplicatively greater risk for developing mental and physical health problems in adolescence compared to youth who did not have these same biological vulnerabilities and environmental experiences. Additionally, youth who chronically experienced peer victimization had significantly more mental and physical health problems than youth who experienced less stable victimization. This study adds to the current research on peer victimization by using a diathesis- stress model to examine the interactive effects of peer victimization and temperament on negative mental health and physical health outcomes. Moreover, findings from this study will provide researchers and professionals with information that can aide in the development of interventions for children who experience peer victimization and who suffer from different types of health problems and symptoms of psychopathology. More specifically, by understanding how innate factors such as temperament interact with a child's experience of peer victimization, researchers and clinicians may be able to design more specialized interventions for children based on the patterns of their victimization experiences and temperamental traits.
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