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Peer victimization typically peaks in early adolescence, leading researchers to hypothesize that pubertal timing is a meaningful predictor of peer victimization. However, previous methodological approaches have limited our ability to parse out which puberty cues are associated with peer victimization because gonadal and adrenal puberty, two independent processes, have either been conflated or adrenal puberty timing has been ignored. In addition, previous research has overlooked the possibility of reverse causality—that peer victimization might drive pubertal timing, as it has been shown to do in non-human primates. To fill these gaps, we followed 265 adolescents (47% female) prospectively across three-time points (Mage: T1 = 9.6, T2 = 12.0, T3 = 14.4) and measured self-report peer victimization and self- and maternal-report of gonadal and adrenal pubertal development on the Pubertal Development Scale. Multilevel modeling revealed that females who were further along in adrenal puberty at age 9 were more likely to report peer victimization at age 12 (Cohen's d = 0.25, p = .005). The relation between gonadal puberty status and peer victimization was not significant for either sex. In terms of the reverse direction, the relation between early peer victimization and later pubertal development was not significant in either sex. Overall, our findings suggest that adrenal puberty status, but not gonadal puberty status, predicted peer victimization in females, highlighting the need to separate gonadal and adrenal pubertal processes in future studies.


This article was originally published in Aggressive Behavior, volume 50, in 2024.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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