Peer victimization, depression, and sexual risk behaviors among high school youth in the United States: a gender-based approach

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Little research has examined how different types of peer victimization (i.e. school bullying, cyber-bullying, and physical and sexual dating violence) predict sexual risk behaviors and how depression may mediate the relationship of such behaviors with types of peer victimization. Few works have investigated gender differences in these direct and indirect associations as well. This study, therefore, examined gender differences in the direct and indirect associations among four types of peer victimization, depression, and sexual risk behaviors in United States (US) high school students. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Data were drawn from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior System Survey, collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A multigroup path analysis was conducted using a national sample of high school students who reported having ever engaged in sexual intercourse (n = 5,288). RESULTS: All the peer victimization variables positively predicted depressive symptoms for both females and males. The direct effects of physical and sexual dating violence were associated with increased sexual risk behaviors for females and males. However, school-bullying victimization did not significantly predict sexual risk behaviors for either gender. Cyber-bullying victimization significantly predicted increased sexual risk behaviors for males only. Among indirect effects, depression positively mediated the relationship between cyber-bullying victimization and sexual risk behaviors for males only. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that male adolescents who are victimized may actually be at higher risk of negative outcomes compared to their female adolescent peers. This study highlights the need to pay attention to male victims who may be ashamed to self-identify and difficult to detect in cyber-bullying.

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International journal of adolescent medicine and health

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