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The Short-Term Longitudinal and Reciprocal Relations Between Peer Victimization on Facebook and Adolescents’ Well-Being


Adolescents  Depressive symptoms  Life satisfaction  Peer victimization  Facebook

Publication details

Year: 2016
DOI: 10.1007/s10964-016-0436-z
Issued: 2016
Language: English
Volume: 45
Issue: 9
Start Page: 1755
End Page: 1771
Authors: Frison E.; Subrahmanyam K.; Eggermont S.
Type: Journal article
Journal: Journal of Youth and Adolescence
Publisher: Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Topics: Social mediation; Risks and harms; Wellbeing
Sample: 1235 students from 12- to 19-year-olds from 15 randomly selected Flemish high schools participated in both waves


Although studies have shown that depressive symptoms, life satisfaction, and adolescents’ online peer victimization are associated, there remain critical gaps in our understanding of these relationships. To address these gaps, the present two-wave panel study (NTime1 = 1840) (1) examines the short-term longitudinal and reciprocal relationships between peer victimization on Facebook, depressive symptoms and life satisfaction during adolescence, and (2) explores the moderating role of adolescents’ gender, age, and perceived friend support. Self-report data from 1621 adolescent Facebook users (48 % girls; MAge = 14.76; SD = 1.41) were used to test our hypotheses. The majority of the sample (92 %) was born in Belgium. Cross-lagged analyses indicated that peer victimization on Facebook marginally predicted decreases in life satisfaction, and life satisfaction predicted decreases in peer victimization on Facebook. However, depressive symptoms were a risk factor for peer victimization on Facebook, rather than an outcome. In addition, support from friends protected adolescents from the harmful outcomes of peer victimization on Facebook. Both theoretical and practical implications are discussed.


"Eighty-four percent of the youth who reported having an account on Facebook also reported that they had experienced at least one negative interaction with a peer. Victimized youth might interpret negative peer acts on Facebook as negative peer evaluations which might stimulate negative self-evaluation or even decrease youth’s feelings of belonging. An additional explaination could be to feel helpless or hopeless to stop perpetrators’ negative online acts. Yet, peer victimization on Facebook did not predict increases in depressive symptoms but is rather an important risk factor. While perpetrators can behave anonymously on the Internet, anonymous perpetration is far more difficult in a Facebook setting. Socially vulnerable adolescents, that is those who score low on life satisfaction, but high on depressive symptoms, may be at higher risk to be victimized on Facebook since perpetrators may interpret an expression of life dissatisfaction or depressive symptoms as a sign of weakness. This sign of weakness, in turn, may stimulate perpetrators’ perception that dissatisfied or depressed peers are unable to defend themselves properly, making them the ideal targets for aversive online acts. Friend support was effective in moderating the harmful impact of online peer victimization on participants’ depressive symptoms and life satisfaction since it offered protection and serves as an efficient buffer against the harmful impact of negative Facebook experiences." (Frison et al., 2016, pp. 1766-1767)

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