Over the past decade, parents, educators and policy makers have become increasingly concerned about verbal and physical harassment in schools and the subsequent effects of peer victimization on teens. A recent study by Julie C. Rusby and colleagues from the Oregon Research Institute, published in the November 2005 issue of the Journal of Early Adolescence by SAGE Publications, found significant associations between peer harassment of students in middle school and a variety of problem behaviors, such as alcohol abuse, once these students reach high school.
Although most previous studies have largely focused on elementary school students and have found associations between peer harassment and low self-esteem, depression, loneliness and anxiety of harassed victims, the ORI study focused on other consequences such as substance abuse, aggressive behavior, and the association with deviant peers.
Two hundred twenty-three at-risk male and female students in grades five through seven were studied through their high school years. The researchers studied the relationships between verbal and physical peer harassment in middle school and how this was associated with problem behaviors (aggression, antisocial behavior, associating with deviant peers, cigarette use, and alcohol use) during middle school and high school. The results of the study show that frequent verbal harassment is the norm in middle school rather than physical harassment and that both forms of harassment decrease once students reach the high school years.
Judy Erickson | EurekAlert!
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