Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Psychology



First Advisor

Lauri A Jensen-Campbell


The health benefits of social support have been well documented in the literature (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Newman & Roberts, 2013), as have the somatic and psychological outcomes of being the victim of bullying (Wang, Nansel, & Iannotti, 2011; Knack, Jensen-Campbell, & Baum, 2011). Recent research has looked at the separate role each of these interpersonal processes play in cellular aging via the study of telomeres, which are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that shorten with each cell division (Epel, 2009). Data indicate that stress can accelerate this shortening, leading to premature cell death and a shortened lifespan (Epel, 2009); however, social support may arrest this process and slow down cellular aging (Uchino et al., 2012). Results of regression analyses indicated that social, but not physical, victimization significantly predicted telomere length, such that greater instances of being bullied led to shorter telomeres in an adolescent sample (Mage = 15.84, SDage = 1.66). Both the frequency and severity of health problems were also negatively correlated with telomere length; that is, adolescents with shorter TLs reported greater frequency and severity of health problems. Furthermore, the presence of negative support interacted with victimization to predict higher rates of depression; additionally, parental discipline, involvement, and communication all moderated the effect of peer victimization on health outcomes. While PTSD symptoms and depression did not mediate the relationship between peer victimization and telomere length, a direct effect of social victimization on telomere length remained. These findings are the first of their kind to directly link peer victimization to shortened telomeres, while also indicating that the effects of social victimization specifically lead to premature cell death.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

Included in

Psychology Commons