Alliance and Suicide Prevention Lab

Graduate Students

Undergraduate Honors Thesis Projects

Victimization and Academic Achievement at School : The Role of Psychosocial Mediators and Moderators

By Christine Totura, Ph.D.

A Doctoral Dissertation Defended 2005

Project Overview

The present study sought to examine the relationship between victimization by peers in middle school and academic outcomes. it was expected that an association between the experience of victimization and diminished academic performance would be mediated by poor psychological outcomes, as measured by moodiness, depression, anxiety, and anger. additionally, it was hypothesized that academic outcomes could be divided into two distinct constructs, motivation and achievement, with motivation and academic goal-orientation variables preceding the adequate attainment of school grades and standardized test scores. therefore, the present mediated model was tested using a structural equation modeling technique: victimization-psychological functioning-academic motivation-academic achievement. additionally, it was hypothesized that certain factors (friendship, prosocial activities and influences, school climate, aggression, and teacher-reported difficulties) would moderate the victimization-psychological functioning pathway. victimized middle school boys and girls were expected to have varying psychological and emotional outcomes depending on proposed risk and protective factors. approximately equal numbers of males and females (n=145 and 181, respectively) were randomly selected from classrooms in 11 middle schools across 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Students completed questionnaires that assessed hypothesized mediator and moderator variables. In addition, teachers of the selected classrooms completed a brief rating scale on each of the students, which assessed student moodiness, behavioral difficulties, and learning problems. Achievement and discipline records data were obtained. Results revealed that Psychological Functioning mediated the relationship between Victimization and Academic Motivation, which was then related directly to Academic Achievement. Only the Aggression and Climate constructs moderated the Victimization-Psychological Functioning pathway, with Climate factors additionally significant for boys. These results suggest that victimization is associated with poor motivation to achieve if victimized students also experience psychological difficulties. Limited motivation is then associated with poorer academic performance. Contrary to hypothesized associations, endorsing aggressive beliefs and behaviors and experiencing low levels of intervention and support at school against bullying, particularly for boys, were related to better emotional outcomes for students who are highly victimized. While statistically significant, these findings have limited effect sizes. Implications for future research and the development of school-based programming are discussed.