Psychological Distress and Student Engagement as Mediators of the Relationship between Peer Victimization and Achievement in Middle School Youth

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Bullying, Peer victimization, Peer aggression, Academic achievement, Student engagement, Psychological adjustment

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Peer victimization is a well-known national and international problem, contributing to a range of emotional, social, and behavioral consequences. Using structural equation modeling, the authors tested a theoretical model suggesting that psychological distress and student engagement mediate the association between the experience of victimization and concurrent academic achievement. Participants were 469 (46.4 % male, 53.6 % female) 6th to 8th grade students, from randomly selected classrooms in 11 middle schools in a southeastern school district. Structural equation models of the hypothesized effects demonstrated adequate fit to the data, with both symptoms of psychological distress and engagement mediating the relationship between victimization and academic achievement. In general, the results suggest that victimization predicts diminished academic achievement by way of psychological distress and poorer engagement in classroom and academic tasks. However, the direct relationship between victimization and measures of achievement lacked significance across many correlational and path analyses conducted. These findings have implications for researchers and practitioners in understanding how psychological distress and student engagement are associated with the academic performance of students who experience peer victimization.

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Journal of Youth and Adolescence, v. 43, issue 1, p. 40-52