Low Self-Esteem as a Cause and Consequence of Peer Victimization in Modern Orthodox Jewish Middle Schools
Joseph, Julie Stern
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Pre-adolescence is a period that involves many changes. As children grow and develop socially they begin to form a richer sense of self, both fueled by and contributing to their sense of self-esteem. The current study examines the relation between self-esteem and peer victimization among middle school students attending 10 Modern Orthodox Jewish day schools. A total of 357 students (176 girls and 181 boys) in grades 5-7 completed self-reported questionnaires assessing self-esteem and victimization. Self-Esteem and victimization were negatively correlated such that students that reported low levels of self-esteem also reported high levels of victimization. Furthermore, there was a reciprocal relationship; low self-esteem led to increasing rates of victimization over the school year and higher levels of victimization led to decreasing levels of self-esteem over time. This pattern of results was similar across the grades and for both genders. The results suggest that low self-esteem and victimization not only co-exist, but also may influence one another. This has important implications for educators within Modern Orthodox Jewish day schools. It highlights the importance of screening children for social-emotional difficulties as they transition to middle school. Future studies should further examine how specific factors, like the centrality of community, impact students who experience victimization adjustment as Modern Orthodox Jews.
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