Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Boroughs, Michael


Anxiety, Bullying, Depression, Self-esteem, Sexual risk taking, Substance use




Bullying victimization has been commonly linked with a range of psychosocial problems. To deal with distress, victims engage in coping behaviours that may be adaptive, maladaptive, or both. However, it may be difficult for youth to cope in ways that are adaptive. Instead, youth may engage in a variety of coping behaviours that are maladaptive. Considering that emerging adulthood often coincides with engaging in substance use and sexual risk taking, some youth may engage in these health risk behaviours as ways to cope with the psychosocial problems associated with bullying victimization. Therefore, the purpose of the current study was to examine which psychosocial problems may function as developmental pathways linking bullying victimization with both substance use and sexual risk taking in a sample of emerging adults (N = 515; 305 women, 210 men; Mage = 20.20, SD = 1.67). Path analysis provided some support for hypotheses. Bullying victimization had significant direct effects on substance use and sexual risk taking. In addition, bullying victimization had significant indirect effects on substance use through lower self-esteem and depressive symptoms and significant indirect effects on sexual risk taking through lower self-esteem and anxiety symptoms. Secondary analyses suggest that youth with a history of polyvictimization (i.e., bullying and childhood maltreatment) are at even greater risk for engaging in substance use and sexual risk taking. Youth with a history of bullying victimization and polyvictimization may use maladaptive coping strategies such as substance use and sexual risk taking to manage or reduce negative affective experiences.