Peer victimization (PV; i.e., bully victimization, sexual harassment) is pervasive and has been associated with adverse outcomes including emotional distress and substance use among adolescents. Although there is clearly the potential for PV to cause harm, not all adolescents suffer serious effects from such experiences. Little is known about the conditions under which PV causes harm and for whom. There is a surprising lack of research to illuminate: (a) the individual, social and situational factors that influence an individual's response to victimization proximally and over time; and (b) the role of PV in the development of substance use. The proposed study will investigate the acute and long-term effects of PV on adolescent well-being and substance use. Two complimentary methods of data collection to be used: a longitudinal web-based survey comprised of multiple short-interval assessment over a two-year period and a daily diary study of PV experienced over an eight-week period. Adolescents ages 13 - 15 years, will be recruited via address based sampling to participate. The proposed research will advance current understandings of the conditions under which PV is deleterious and for whom, and will identify the processes through which PV affects the development of substance use. It is guided by the following Specific Aims: 1. what are the acute, proximal effects of PV on emotional distress (e.g., negative effect, anxiety) and on substance use among adolescents? 2. Are there individual or situational variables that moderate the association between PV and proximal outcomes? Do the effects of PV vary across three dimensions: victim characteristics (e.g., gender), the characteristics of the PV experience (e.g., chronicity), and potential buffers (e.g., parent, and peer support)? 3. What are the long-term effects of PV on emotional distress and substance use? The effects of PV on trajectories of emotional distress and substance use over time will be examined, as will potential mediators (e.g., depression) and moderators (e.g., alcohol coping expectancies) of PV to identify who is most at risk of developing a substance use problem following PV. The use of multiple methods to address these aims is highly novel and offers the potential to significantly advance understandings of PV.

Public Health Relevance

Peer victimization (PV) peaks during a developmental period marked by significant psychological and social transitions, often including the initiation of substance use. Because of this, PV-related emotional distress may exacerbate the likelihood of adverse health outcomes, including hazardous drinking and use of illicit drugs. The proposed research will seek to identify the conditions under which PV contributes to emotional distress (i.e., depression, anxiety) and substance use, and for whom, in effort to advance current understandings of the acute and long-term effects of peer victimization on adolescent adjustment.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Risk, Prevention and Intervention for Addictions Study Section (RPIA)
Program Officer
Matochik, John A
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
State University of New York at Buffalo
Organized Research Units
United States
Zip Code