Friendships with peers who are low or high in aggression as moderators of the link between peer victimization and declines in academic functioning.
This study evaluated the hypothesis that the behavior problems that place children at risk for victimization by peers are associated with victimization primarily when children are also at social risk for victimization. Social risk was defined as lacking supportive friends or as being rejected by the peer group. Participants were 229 boys and girls in the 3rd through 7th grades (M age = 11 years 2 months). As predicted, behavior problems (internalizing problems, externalizing problems, and physical weakness) were more strongly related to victimization when children had few friends, had friends who were incapable of fulfilling a protective function (e.g., were physically weak), or were rejected by peers than when children had more friends, had friends capable of defending them, or were better liked by peers. Results illustrate the principle that individual risk variables depend on social context for expression.