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Early adolescents’ understanding of different forms of psychopathology and its implications for peer relationships: A mixed-methods approach


Early adolescents’ understanding of different forms of psychopathology and its implications for peer relationships: A mixed-methods approach

Meyer, Felicia (2013) Early adolescents’ understanding of different forms of psychopathology and its implications for peer relationships: A mixed-methods approach. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Meyer_PhD_S2014.pdf - Accepted Version


The aim of this project was to extend prior research on youth’s understanding of, and responses to, peers with mental health problems. The two present studies were designed to examine causal beliefs, attitudes and behavioural intentions towards hypothetical peers displaying symptoms of four common forms of childhood psychopathology (i.e., depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder) in a sample of 272 early adolescents in Montreal, Quebec. A mixed-methods design was implemented consisting of ratings and open-ended questions in response to behavioural vignettes. Using analysis of variance and factor analysis, results from both studies supported our main hypothesis that beliefs, levels of liking and intended behaviours would vary as a function of the type of problem depicted and show consistent differences between internalizing and externalizing problems. Specifically, results from Study 1 on causal beliefs show that conduct problems were most viewed as within the peer’s control and attributed to lack of effort, in line with previous findings on beliefs about peers’ personal responsibility for aggressive behaviour. As expected, results from Study 2 provide evidence that liking, friendship and helping intentions were higher towards peers with internalizing difficulties (i.e., anxiety and depression) than towards those displaying acting-out behaviours, with the most negative responses observed for the peer with conduct problems. Using content analysis, the open-ended question eliciting ways to help a peer revealed a wide range of help strategies proposed by early adolescents, including peer involvement and professional help, again with variations by problem. Taken together, qualitative findings provide evidence for the ability of 10- to 12-year-olds to offer a range of explanations (internal and external) for mental health problems and to suggest general and problem-specific help strategies, thus enhancing our limited knowledge of mental health literacy in this age group. Overall, results confirm and extend findings on youth’s tendency to stigmatize peers displaying aggressive behaviour, as evidenced by attributions of controllability, negative attitudes and social distance, with implications for peer rejection experienced by such youth. By shedding light on responses to peers with psychological problems in early adolescence, this work informs our understanding of the development of mental health stigma.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Psychology
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Meyer, Felicia
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:December 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):Bukowski, William
Keywords:mental health, early adolescence, peer relations, causal beliefs, stigma, conduct disorder, ADHD, depression, anxiety
ID Code:978274
Deposited On:12 Jun 2014 19:54
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:46


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