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Bullying Victimization and Neurofibromatosis Type 1: Examining the Association of Self-Perception on Internalizing Symptomatology

Cody Solesbee, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Bullying victimization is a complex public health issue that is associated with adverse outcomes in emotional, social, and psychological functioning. Youth who are physically different from their peers are more likely to be bullied (Berne et al., 2014; Swearer & Cary, 2003). The vulnerability to victimization is further complicated by the presence of a chronic health condition, such as Neurofibromatosis Type 1, which is characterized by physical stigmata (Barton & North, 2004; Ejerskov et al., 2015). Few studies have used the diathesis-stress model to better understand the relationship between chronic health conditions, bullying victimization, and internalizing symptomatology. Applying a diathesis-stress model, in addition to social-ecological theory and social comparison theory, can elucidate risk and protective factors that influence adverse outcomes for youth with chronic health conditions. Data were collected from youth who participated in larger studies conducted at two separate sites in the United States. The current study found a significant relationship between NF1 status and bullying victimization. Further, there was a significant difference in anxious and depressive symptomatology between youth diagnosed with NF1 and unaffected participants, such that youth with NF1 reported significantly higher internalizing symptoms. These significant differences in symptomatology existed across bullying victimization experiences, such that youth with NF1 who experienced bullying victimization reported significantly higher levels of anxious and depressive symptoms compared to unaffected participants. Notably, self-perception was not associated with significant changes in endorsed levels of anxious or depressive symptomatology. However, youth with higher NF1 severity and lower levels of self-perception reported significantly higher levels of anxious symptomatology compared to lower NF1 severity and unaffected participants. Thus, youth with NF1 are vulnerable to internalizing problems, which can be influenced by experiences of bullying victimization and self-perception. This research advances the field by providing empirical support for the complex relationship between NF1 status, bullying victimization, and internalizing symptomatology, as well as demonstrating support for the diathesis-stress model. Implications for research and clinical practices as well as study limitations are discussed.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Solesbee, Cody, "Bullying Victimization and Neurofibromatosis Type 1: Examining the Association of Self-Perception on Internalizing Symptomatology" (2022). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI29258260.