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Understanding Early Adolescents Coping with Peer Threat: Insecurity as a Risk Factor for Psychopathology

Research Team

Principal Investigator: Meredith Martin

Funding Information

Funding Agency: Office of Research and Economic Development—Layman Award

Award Date: May 1, 2017

End Date: Dec 31, 2018


Ranging from social isolation to targeted violence, peer victimization is a prevalent and potent risk factor for children and adolescents. To ensure the safe and secure social environments that reduce victimization, school districts need effective methods of prevention and intervention.

This study examines how youth cope with victimization and explores ways to reduce the public health burden, which can include anxiety, depression, school dropout, criminal behavior, substance abuse and suicide.

Two assessments developed through this study to study peer insecurity: the Peer Social Defense Inventory, a self-report questionnaire for youths’ affective and behavioral responses to peer threat; and the Go/No-Go Association Task, an implicit cognitive task that captures internal representations of the peer group.

Using these assessments, data will be collected from 150 youth, ages 11-16, attending a Nebraska school during the 2017-18 academic year. Participants will complete the assessments twice during the school year, about three months apart. Once data is gathered, it will be analyzed to determine how contextual characteristics shape students’ response and what demographics are most affected.

The research is designed to provide a better understanding of the Peer Social Defense Framework, which asserts that safety and security are fundamental psychological goals motivating children’s responses to interpersonal threats.

Academic Intervention & Learning, Social, Emotional and Behavioral Well-being, Research, Measurement and Evaluation Methods

Meredith Martin, assistant professor of educational psychology
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