Peer learning can modify the reciprocal relationship between peer support and victimization in middle school

Sabina Low, Mark J. Van Ryzin, Cary J. Roseth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: This research investigated how peer victimization and support are reciprocally related and how Cooperative Learning (CL) can reverse the progressive cascade that, unchecked, can culminate in youth mental health problems. Methods: The sample (N = 1890; 53% male) was derived from a randomized trial of CL in 15 middle schools in the United States. Students were recruited in the 7th grade. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was used to fit our cross-lag difference score model across four waves of data. Results: The results indicated a reciprocal relationship between peer support and victimization across time, suggesting the potential for negative experiences with peers to become amplified over time in a “vicious cycle,” negatively impacting mental health. Students in intervention schools reported significantly higher levels of peer support and lower levels of victimization, suggesting that CL can intervene in this cycle, with salutary effects on mental health; CL also demonstrated direct effects on mental health. Conclusions: The present study indicates that low peer support can be both a precursor to and an outcome of victimization, serving to maintain a vicious cycle that compounds negative effects on student mental health. Further, results demonstrate how CL can reverse this cycle. We conclude that CL can be of particular importance to the prevention field as a universal mental health program that does not require the associated stigma of identifying youth at elevated risk for referral to treatment programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)524-536
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • cooperative learning
  • emotional problems
  • middle school
  • peer support
  • victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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