“Why Me?”: Characterological Self-Blame and Continued Victimization in the First Year of Middle School

  • Schacter H
  • White S
  • Chang V
 et al. 
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Abstract

This study examines the role of characterological self-blame as a unique risk factor associated with other known risk factors (depression and its behavioral and social correlates) for continued victimization across the 1st year of middle school. Relying on a large, ethnically diverse sample of 1,698 young adolescents (M age  = 11.57, SD = .39; 55% female), self-report assessments in the fall and spring included perceptions of victim status, depressive symptoms, friendships, aggression, and responses to a hypothetical victimization vignette assessing both appraisals (characterological self-blame) and behavioral reactions (helpless responding). In addition to depression, characterological self-blame emerged as the most consistent unique risk factor for subsequent victimization. Mediation analysis suggested that the continuity of victimization between fall and spring could be partially explained by increases in characterological self-blame and depressive symptoms. In addition, cross-lagged panel analyses indicated reciprocal relations between peer victimization and characterological self-blame, suggesting cyclical processes. The study findings suggest that attribution retraining in the beginning of middle school might help prevent escalating risk for continued peer victimization.

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Authors

  • Hannah L. Schacter

  • Samantha J. White

  • Vickie Y. Chang

  • Jaana Juvonen

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