Influence Of Peer Victimization And Social Support On Cortisol Production
The current dissertation sought to examine whether there was an association between peer victimization, neuroendocrine functioning, and physical health outcomes. Adolescents and their parent (N = 107) participated in a two-part study. In the first phase, adolescents completed a series of questionnaires either at school or online to assess levels of peer victimization, social support, and health outcomes. They then came into the laboratory with a parent for the second part of the study which consisted of two sessions. In session one, adolescents completed additional questionnaires and learned how to collect saliva samples (to assess cortisol levels); parents completed measures of their child's social experiences (i.e., victimization and social support) and health. Adolescents collected 4 samples of their saliva over each of 2 non-sports school days (for a total of 8 daily samples). Upon returning to the laboratory, adolescents completed the Trier Social Stress Test in which they prepared and delivered a 5-minute speech on why they would make an ideal class president. Cortisol samples were collected before and after the speech. As expected, peer victimization predicted negative health outcomes. This link did not differ between boys and girls. Moreover, the results suggest that peer victimization alters the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (as assessed by cortisol levels) which in turn predicts negative health outcomes. This dissertation was an important first step in understanding how peer victimization impacts biological functioning.