The Impact Of Peer Victimization On Adolescent Inflammatory Markers
Arana, Allyson Antoinette
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For years, research has linked peer victimization to various outcomes, ranging from those in the psychological realm (e.g., depression, anxiety) to physical health symptoms (e.g., frequent doctor visits, abdominal pain). While there are many possible mechanisms responsible for this relationship, this study focused on immune system dysregulation, specifically concerning the inflammatory markers interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP). Prior research has found that environmental stress is related to increased production of these markers (e.g., Danese et al., 2007; Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2003). Furthermore, elevated levels of IL-6 and CRP have been associated with health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and depression (e.g., Young et al., 1991; Kronfol, 2002). Regression analyses showed that overall victimization, but not bullying, predicted more depressive symptoms and physical health complaints in a sample of 76 adolescents (<italic>M</italic><sub>age</sub> = 15.85). Relational victimization also uniquely predicted levels of CRP and IL-6; CRP and IL-6 were also related to reported frequency and severity of health problems. Bullying and victimization interacted to predict depression, such that those who regularly perpetrated and experienced peer harassment (i.e., bully-victims) were faced with poorer outcomes. Mediation analyses revealed that depression mediated the relationship between victimization and plasma circulation levels of IL-6 and between victimization and frequency of health symptoms. Process analysis revealed that this mediation relationship held only for those involved in mean and high levels of bullying. These results provide preliminary evidence that bullying and victimization is associated with inflammatory markers and that depression may be an important presage to inflammation and health problems.