Characterological self-blame and victimization among adolescents

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University of Alabama Libraries

Peer victimization has numerous negative consequences for adolescent adjustment, including anxiety and depression (Reijntjes, Kamphuis, Prinzie & Telch, 2010). To effectively intervene and help victims of peer harassment, it is crucial to understand how victims make sense of their experience. One way that children and adolescents make sense out of victimization is to make characterological self-blame attributions. Characterological self-blame attributions are attributions that are stable, internal, and uncontrollable (i.e. “there is something wrong with me that I can’t change,” “I’m not cool enough”) and these attributions seem to account, in part, for the relation between peer victimization and internalizing problems (Graham & Juvonen, 1998). However, past studies have found that marginalization, as operationalized as being from a racial/ethnic numerical minority group in a low diversity school, moderates how peer victimization is not related to characterological self-blame (Graham, Bellmore, Nishina & Juvonen, 2009). Graham et al. (2009) suggested that one way to explain this is the possibility that that marginalized students attribute victimization to the prejudice of others. The current study found that characterological self-blame mediated the relationship between victimization and internalizing problems. This link between victimization and characterological self-blame was moderated by attributions of prejudice. Results imply the importance of promoting healthier attributional styles to attenuate negative consequences of victimization on adjustment.

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Developmental psychology, Psychology