Category: Child / Adolescent - Trauma / Maltreatment

PS7- #A21 - Examining Bidirectional Effects of Peer Victimization and Marijuana Use in Adolescence

Friday, Nov 17
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Adolescents | Child Externalizing | Substance Abuse

Peer victimization is a significant risk factor for later externalizing behavior such as aggression and delinquency (Reijentes et al., 2011). Early adolescence is a critical period for the development of peer victimization’s negative effects. Peer victimization includes physical and relational victimization. Previous research suggests a link between substance use, physical and relational aggression; however, how substance use is associated with these forms of victimization over time is unknown. Much work has examined substance use as an outcome of peer victimization. Yet, prospective, bidirectional associations between victimization and externalizing behavior, including substance use, are understudied. Cannabis is the most prevalent illicit drug used in adolescence (Keyes et al., 2011). Approximately 36% of high school seniors have used cannabis in the past year (Chen & Jacobson, 2012). Paradoxically, cannabis use has been associated with increased aggression in adolescents and young adults (e.g. Reingle et al., 2011). Given the co-occurrence of aggression and victimization (i.e., bully-victims), this same pattern is likely with victimization as well.  The negative trajectory begun by peer victimization may result in future cannabis use problems as well as aggressive behavior.


       Adolescents (N = 801) aged 12-16 were surveyed twice in 6 months. We hypothesized that (a) cannabis use would predict increased relational and overt victimization and (b) victimization would predict increased cannabis use. Path analyses were conducted in Mplus7 (Muthen & Muthen, 2014) to examine bidirectional associations between both relational and overt victimization and cannabis use in adolescence.


 Consistent with national rates of cannabis use, 11.2% of adolescents (n=90) endorsed cannabis use over the past 6 months. As expected, relational and overt victimization at baseline predicts relational and overt victimization, respectively, 6 months later. Past 6-month cannabis use at baseline predicts 30-day cannabis use 6 months later (Time 2). Hypotheses were partially supported. Baseline relational victimization is associated with increased Time 2 cannabis use, while baseline cannabis use is associated with decreases in overt victimization over time.


Results suggest that adolescents who are initially relationally victimized are more likely to feel ostracized, which may lead to association with deviant peers. Those already using cannabis at age 12 may be more likely to smoke to cope, leading to less association with peers who will victimize them. By identifying peer victimization and substance use associations, interventions can be tailored to reduce both peer victimization and initiation of cannabis use during a developmentally vulnerable period.  

Whitney C. Brown

Postdoctoral Fellow
Research Institute on Addictions State University of New York, University at Buffalo
Buffalo, New York

Kimberly E. Kamper-DeMarco

Postdoctoral Fellow
Research Institute on Addictions State University of New York, University at Buffalo

Jennifer Livingston

Senior Scientist
Research Institute on Addictions State University of New York, University at Buffalo

Maria Testa

Senior Scientist
Research Institute on Addictions State University of New York, University at Buffalo