Early childhood behaviors and family structure associated with peer victimization

1. On examination of a large Canadian cohort, four developmental trajectories of early childhood self-reported peer victimization were identified.

2. Peer victimization trajectories were associated with childhood internalizing and externalizing behaviors and with family vulnerabilities.

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)

Study Rundown: While childhood peer victimization (e.g. bullying, teasing, exclusion from activities, etc.) is known to be associated with development of mental health conditions, there is little research on variations in peer victimization throughout childhood and into adolescence. To bridge this gap, researchers in the current study used data from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development (QLSCD) to examine peer victimization trajectories from age 6 to 17 years and to identify behavioral and family characteristics that may be associated with these trajectories. A combination of family home interviews and children’s self-reports were used for data gathering. The study found that compared to children with a low peer victimization trajectory, children with greater levels or peer victimization were more likely to exhibit externalizing behaviors, be male, and have fathers with antisocial behavior. Though limited by a lack of granularity regarding the details of peer victimization and by potential bias associated with self-report, this large study may allow pediatric providers to target interventions to individuals most at-risk for peer victimization behavior.

Click to read the study in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Peer Victimization Trajectories From Kindergarten Through High School: Differential Pathways for Children’s School Engagement and Achievement?

In-Depth [cross-sectional study]: A total of 1760 children were included in the final analysis. From age 5 months to 5 years, families periodically provided information about the child, family dynamics, and social environment through home interviews. Additionally, children provided their experience of peer victimization using a modified version of the Self-reported Peer Victimization Scale from age 6 years to 17 years. With this data, researchers of the study identified 4 trajectories of peer victimization: 1) low, characterized by relatively lower victimization throughout childhood and adolescence (n = 579, 32.9%); 2) moderate-emerging, characterized by consistent victimization from ages 6 to 12 years old and relative increase in adolescence (n = 525, 29.8%); 3) childhood-limited, characterized by higher peer victimization from ages 6 to 12 years and relative decrease in adolescence (n = 461, 26.2%); and 4) high-chronic, characterized by relatively higher victimization throughout childhood and adolescence (n = 195, 11.1%). When compared to those in the low peer victimization trajectory, children in the moderate-emerging, childhood-limited, and high-chronic trajectories had a higher likelihood of having externalizing behaviors (OR 1.20, 95% CI 1.06-1.35; OR 1.19, 95% CI 1.05-1.35; and OR 1.41, 95% CI 1.21-1.66, respectively). When compared to those in the low peer victimization trajectory, children in the moderate-emerging and high-chronic trajectories were more likely to be male (OR 1.41, 95% CI 1.10-1.80 and OR 1.73, 95% CI 1.23-2.44, respectively) and more likely to have fathers with antisocial behavior (OR 1.54, 95% CI 1.09-2.19 and OR 1.93, 95% CI 1.25-2.99, respectively). Additionally, children with the childhood-limited and high-chronic trajectory had a higher likelihood of coming from non-intact families (OR 1.48, 95% CI 1.11-1.97 and OR 1.59, 95% CI 1.09-2.31, respectively).

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