The Typology of Peer Victimization in College: a Network Science Perspective
Types and subtypes of peer victimization (PV) behaviors have long been identified among school-age children and adolescents. However, such typologies have not been established for older adolescents and young adults who are still in school despite the fact that colleges and universities are increasingly concerned about such behaviors among their students. The overarching goal of the current study was to develop a peer victimization typology for college students. Through Qualtrics Panels, a nation-wide sample of 520 college students completed questionnaires concerning peer victimization in college. As peer victimization in younger populations has been associated with internalizing problems, the current participants also completed measures of depression, anxiety, and stress. Four major results emerged. First, cluster and tetrad analyses revealed two broad formative types (personal/relational PV and abusive/exploitative PV) that effectively encompassed various subtypes. Second, peer victimization subtypes constituted a small-world system in which verbal aggression, broken trust, and stereotyping brought increased risks for polyvictimization. Results reflected that broadband social interventions could impact all peer victimization subtypes except physical and sexual victimization. Third, the two broad PV types statistically predicted depression-, anxiety-, and stress-related symptoms. Finally, results also showed that peer victimization subtypes are better regarded as cause indicators, not effect indicators, of their respective constructs, suggesting that future researchers should carefully consider when and when not to use factor-analytic approaches in studying peer victimization.