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The purpose of this study was to investigate the protective role prosocial behaviors may serve for victimized children. Although a significant portion of the victimization literature focuses on the association of victimization with negative outcomes, research findings suggest a need to examine the heterogeneity also apparent in children’s responses to victimization. By beginning to examine the variability in children’s responses to peer victimization, researchers can gain insight into the dynamic process of peer victimization and begin to define what factors might distinguish children who show resiliency to negative effects from victimization from those who do not. Research examining the protective role a child’s behavior, in particular their prosocial behavior, may have for victimized children and their adjustment outcome is needed.
A moderation model was used to test the interaction of peer-nominated prosocial behavior and victimization on self-reported loneliness one year later among a sample of fourth and fifth grade students. A self-report measure of perceived social support was also controlled for in the model. The overall model examined the interaction of prosocial behavior by total victimization as well as by form of victimization (relational and overt). Models were further examined by gender groups.
Results indicated that a child’s prosocial behavior moderated the relationship between victimization and loneliness even after controlling for a child’s perceived social support from peers. Further, when examining specific forms of victimization, relational victimization was the only form significantly moderated by prosocial behavior. These findings were present for both boys and girls. Follow-up plots further indicated that children at the highest level of victimization who were prosocial reported significantly less loneliness than children at high levels of victimization who were not prosocial. Implications for prosocial behaviors as a protective factor for victimized children are discussed.
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