Psicologia clínica, Psicología clínica, Clinical psychology, Psicologia infantil, Psicología infantil, Child psychology, Psicologia de l'adolescència, Psicología de la adolescencia, Adolescent psychology, Maltractament infantil, Maltrato infantil, Child abuse, Victimització, Victimización, Victimisation, and Ciències de la Salut
Interpersonal victimization is widely acknowledged to be a significant stressor and psychologically damaging factor for both children and adolescents. Despite the large number of studies that report a clear association between specific kinds of victimization and psychiatric disorders, little research to date has accounted for the full spectrum of victimization to which adolescents can be exposed. The current thesis aims to analyse the mental health aftermath of victimization, taking into account the wide range of victimizations to which adolescents are exposed, and highlighting the higher vulnerability of those who can be considered “poly-victims”. It also aims to study the role that variables like self-esteem may play in buffering the negative effects of victimization. This thesis is based on four studies (Soler, Paretilla, Kirchner, & Forns, 2012; Soler, Kirchner, Paretilla & Forns, 2013; Soler, Segura, Kirchner, & Forns, 2013; Soler, Forns, Kirchner, & Segura, 2014). Overall, the results highlight the high burden of victimization to which Spanish adolescents are exposed, and show that youth rarely suffer single victimizing events but are more likely to endure rather multiple victimization experiences. Similarly, very few adolescents reported victimization in only one area (e.g., only sexual victimization); rather, they tend to report a combination of different areas. Moreover, it was found that the impact of individual areas of victimization on mental health tends to decrease and even become irrelevant when the combination of different areas is taken into account, showing that it is probably the combination of victimization areas, and not single areas, that is truly important for adolescents’ mental health. Overall, girls at adolescent ages showed higher psychological distress than boys. Moreover, although in general boys and girls reported equivalent amounts of victimization (i.e., total kinds of victimization), girls reported twice as much child maltreatment and sexual victimization as boys. Boys and girls in the poly-victim condition were the ones that reported the most psychopathological symptoms (e.g., PTSS, suicidal behaviours) and lower self-esteem, highlighting the cumulative effect of increasing stressors (Cloitre et al., 2009). A gender-specific psychopathologic response linked to the cumulative pattern of interpersonal victimization was found, with boys showing increased distress in the poly-victim condition and girls showing increased distress even in mild levels of victimization. This signals that victimization may play an important role in producing the gender differences in mental health that are found in the general population, and highlights females’ greater vulnerability to victimization. Experiencing multiple kinds of victimization or poly-victimization was found to affect adolescents’ self-evaluation as worthy social beings (i.e., self-liking), but it did not seem to make them question their self-efficacy (i.e., self-competence). Also, self-liking was found to be a partial mediator of the relationship between victimization and certain mental health variables (e.g., internalizing symptoms) in both boys and girls, whereas self-competence was found to be a mediator of this relationship only in girls. These findings may be of help to clinicians and health practitioners since they suggest that working on adolescents’ sense of personal value (self-liking) and girls’ sense of ability to meet personal goals (self-competence) may help them to build up resilience in the face of adversity.