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Peer Victimization and Mental Health Problems: Racial-Ethnic Differences in the Buffering Role of Academic Performance
Journal of Youth and Adolescence  (IF4.381),  Pub Date : 2021-07-24, DOI: 10.1007/s10964-021-01483-3
Rui Fu, Tracy Evian Waasdorp, Julie A. Randolph, Catherine P. Bradshaw

Despite research highlighting the importance of academic performance in reducing youth’s bullying involvement, little attention has focused on its role in moderating the association between peer victimization and youth maladjustment, further, there have been even fewer studies examining potential racial-ethnic differences in the association. This cross-sectional study examined the function of academic performance, as a moderator, in the associations between peer victimization and youth mental health problems (i.e., internalizing, externalizing, and substance use problems) and whether and how this function varied by the youth’s racial-ethnic background. Self-report data were collected from 69,244 middle and high school youth (45.96% were middle schoolers; 49.7% were females; 25.72% were Black and African American youth, 9.64% Latinx American youth, 5.95% Asian American youth, and 10.47% Bi- and Multi-racial youth, and 48.22% White American youth). Multi-level models indicated that academic performance was negatively related to internalizing problems and substance use more strongly in victimized youth than in non-victimized youth, suggesting itself as a buffering factor. Moreover, this buffering function of academic performance in victimized youth was more pronounced in some ethnic groups (i.e., Asian American) than in others (i.e., Black and Latinx American), yet, notably, it was a buffer across all ethnic groups. These findings underscore the importance of academic strength in protecting victimized youth of all ethnicities against mental health difficulties, while recognizing that additional foci on improving academic performance and addressing academic-related norms are needed for racial-ethnic minority subgroups.