To describe (1) the developmental trajectories of peer victimization from 6 to 17 years of age and (2) the early childhood behaviors and family characteristics associated with the trajectories.
We used data from 1760 children enrolled in the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, a population-based birth cohort. Participants self-reported peer victimization at ages 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, and 17 years. Participants’ behavior and family characteristics were measured repeatedly between ages 5 months and 5 years.
We identified 4 trajectories of peer victimization from 6 to 17 years of age: low (32.9%), moderate-emerging (29.8%), childhood-limited (26.2%), and high-chronic (11.1%). Compared with children in the low peer victimization trajectory, children in the other 3 trajectories were more likely to exhibit externalizing behaviors in early childhood, and those in the high-chronic and moderate-emerging trajectories were more likely to be male. Paternal history of antisocial behavior was associated with moderate-emerging (odds ratio [OR] = 1.54; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.09–2.19) and high-chronic (OR = 1.93; 95% CI = 1.25–2.99) relative to low peer victimization. Living in a nonintact family in early childhood was associated with childhood-limited (OR = 1.48; 95% CI = 1.11–1.97) and high-chronic (OR = 1.59; 95% CI = 1.09–2.31) relative to low peer victimization.
Early childhood externalizing behaviors and family vulnerabilities were associated with the development of peer victimization. Some children entered the cascade of persistent peer victimization at the beginning of primary school. Support to these children and their families early in life should be an important component of peer victimization preventive interventions.