Perceived Social Support and Mental Health among First-Year College Students with Histories of Bullying Victimization

Gerald M. Reid, Melissa K. Holt, Chelsey E. Bowman, Dorothy L. Espelage, Jennifer Greif Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although childhood bullying victimization is associated with adult depression and anxiety, the majority of previously bullied youth do not develop psychopathology. Identifying protective factors has implications for designing interventions that can support a successful adjustment to emerging adulthood. In this study, we investigate whether perceived social support protects against depression and anxiety among first-year college students who had previously experienced bullying. We collected data from 1474 first-year college students attending four large universities across the United States. Students completed a web-based survey in fall 2012 (Wave 1) and 436 (29.5 %) participated in a follow-up survey in spring 2013 (Wave 2). Participants reported on childhood bullying victimization, current depression and anxiety, and current social support (overall and from family, friends, and significant others). Results indicated that a history of childhood bullying victimization was positively associated with depression and anxiety in both fall and spring. Further, overall social support reported in fall moderated the association between childhood bullying victimization and fall and spring anxiety. Also, higher levels of perceived family support, in particular, buffered previously bullied students’ risk for spring anxiety. Results suggest that perceptions of familial social support during the initial adjustment to college may protect previously bullied first-year students from anxiety during their adjustment to college. Research and clinical implications, study limitations, and future directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3331-3341
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Anxiety
  • Bullying
  • College adjustment
  • Depression
  • Perceived social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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