Date Thesis Awarded

4-2015

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Janice L. Zeman

Committee Member

Catherine Forestell

Committee Member

Beverly Sher

Abstract

Aversive peer experiences, such as overt and relational peer victimization, have been shown to predict somatic symptoms in early adolescents (Nixon, Linkie, Coleman, & Fitch, 2011). Few studies, however, have assessed somatic symptoms in the context of positive social relationships, such as peer friendships. The present study examined relations between somatic symptoms and both negative and positive friendships to determine whether friend support may buffer youth against somatic symptoms. Data were collected from 200 youths enrolled in middle school (Mage = 12.66, 53.0% female, 75.5% White), who responded to questions assessing friendship quality with a reciprocated mutual best friend, victimization experiences, emotion talk, co-rumination, and somatic symptoms. Mothers also reported on their child’s somatic symptoms. Multiple regression analyses demonstrated that overt victimization and relational victimization predicted higher somatic symptoms, particularly among girls. Actor-Partner Interdependence Modeling (APIM; Kenny, Kashy, & Cook, 2006) was used to analyze dyadic data from youths’ reports about their best friendships. Friends’ perceived unsupportive responses to emotion predicted higher somatic symptoms, whereas positive features of best friendships, including instrumental help, validation, conflict resolution, and supportive responses to emotion predicted fewer somatic symptoms. Findings with validation, conflict resolution, and emotion talk were more evident for girls than boys. These findings emphasize the need to examine further both positive and negative peer relationships as antecedents or outcomes associated with somatization.