ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2009, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (05): 433-443.

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Physical and Relational Victimization, and Children’s Emotional Adjustment in Middle Childhood

ZHANG Wen-Xin;CHEN Liang;JI Lin-Qin;ZHANG Ling-Ling;CHEN Guang-Hui;Wang Shu-Qiong   

  1. Department of Psychology, Shandong Normal University, Jinan 250014, China
  • Received:2008-12-25 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2009-05-30 Online:2009-05-30
  • Contact: ZHANG Wen-Xin

Abstract: Peer victimization refers to children’s experience of being a target of physical, verbal or relational aggressive behavior from peers. Research indicates that peer victimization is a phenomenon of high prevalence during childhood and adolescence, and can lead to both concurrent and prospective maladjustment on the part of victim. Although in recent years there has been an increasing interest in the research on children’s peer victimization, most of these studies have focused on physical form of victimization and were conducted with children in Western cultures. Research into victimization among children in Chinese schools has been rare. The present study investigated the characteristics of physical and relational peer victimization and their associations with children’s emotional adjustment among Chinese children during middle childhood.
The participants of this study were 2603 children in their middle childhood from 51 classrooms in 14 schools (mean age = 9.05±0.53 years) in Jinan, capital city of Shandong Province in mid-eastern China, with approximately equal number of boys (51.98%) and girls (48.2%). The Chinese version of the Multi-dimensional Peer Victimization Scale (MPVS, Mynard & Joseph, 2000) was used to tap children’s’ experience of peer victimization. Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was conducted and indicated that the Chinese version of MPVS had good structural validity of. Measures of children’s emotional adjustment included Children’s Loneliness Scale (Asher, Hymel & Renshaw, 1984), Social Anxiety Scale for Children (La Greca, 1988) and Children’s Depression Inventory (Kovacs, 1992). The participants responded to all the measures in a manner through self-report.
Children reported experiencing more physical than relational forms of victimization. Inconsistent with the pattern of gender differences that has been reported in studies on children in Western cultures, boys in Chinese schools reported more victimization of both relational and physical forms than did girls. Both physical and relational victimization had a negative effect on children’s emotional adjustment, but the negative effect of relational victimization was greater than that of physical victimization. Children’s reporting of physical victimization predicted social anxiety only for girls, while relational victimization contributed to children’s social anxiety for both male and female. Nonetheless, gender didn’t moderate the relationship between either form of victimization and loneliness as well as depression. Overall, the associations between peer victimization and children’s emotional adjustment did not vary as a function of children’s gender.
The findings of this study suggest that the patterns of gender differences in relational victimization vary with cultures, though that of physical victimization remains consistent. To the extent that relational victimization has a unique negative effect on children’s emotional adjustment, future research should pay more attention to this form of victimization.

Key words: middle childhood, peer victimization, physical victimization, relational victimization, emotional adjustment