Peer victimization predicts heightened inflammatory reactivity to social stress in cognitively vulnerable adolescents

Matteo Giletta, George M. Slavich, Karen D. Rudolph, Paul D. Hastings, Matthew K. Nock, Mitchell J. Prinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: During adolescence, peer victimization is a potent type of social stressor that can confer enduring risk for poor mental and physical health. Given recent research implicating inflammation in promoting a variety of serious mental and physical health problems, this study examined the role that peer victimization and cognitive vulnerability (i.e. negative cognitive styles and hopelessness) play in shaping adolescents’ pro-inflammatory cytokine responses to an acute social stressor. Methods: Adolescent girls at risk for psychopathology (n = 157; Mage= 14.73 years; SD = 1.38) were exposed to a laboratory-based social stressor before and after which we assessed salivary levels of three key pro-inflammatory cytokines – interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). Results: As hypothesized, adolescents with greater peer victimization exposure exhibited greater increases in IL-6 and IL1-β in response to the laboratory-based social stressor. Moreover, for all three cytokines individually, as well as for a combined latent factor of inflammation, peer victimization predicted enhanced inflammatory responding most strongly for adolescents with high levels of hopelessness. Conclusions: The findings reveal a biological pathway by which peer victimization may interact with cognitive vulnerability to influence health in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-139
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Peer victimization
  • adolescence
  • cytokines
  • hopelessness
  • social stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Peer victimization predicts heightened inflammatory reactivity to social stress in cognitively vulnerable adolescents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this