The aim of this thesis was to expand the knowledge of victimization in children and youth in Sweden. Victimization, prevalence, health and peritraumatic reactions were explored in a cross sectional, representative sample of 5,960 second grade high school students in Sweden. A computerized survey was developed and administered in class room setting.
Lifetime victimization was found in 84.1% of the sample (m=83.0%, f=85.2%), and, in relation to the five domains, 66.4% had experienced conventional crime, 24% child maltreatment, 54.4% peer and sibling victimization, 21.8% sexual victimization, and 54% had experienced witness victimization. Females experienced significantly more child maltreatment, peer and sibling victimization, sexual victimization, and witnessed victimization, males more conventional crime (p<0.001). Using logistic regression risk factors for victimization were confirmed by a significant increase OR regarding gender, environment and lack of both parents.
Symptoms (TSCC), were clearly associated with both victimizations per se and the number of victimizations. The results indicated a relatively linear increase in symptoms with an increase in number of events experienced. Mental health of the polyvictimized group was significantly worse than that of the non-polyvictimized group, with significantly elevated TSCC scores (t<0.001). Hierarchical regression analysis resulted in beta value reduction when polyvictimization was introduced supporting the independent effect on symptoms. Social anxiety was found in 10.2 % (n = 605) of the total group (n = 5,960). A significant gender difference emerged, with more females than males reporting social anxiety. Elevated PTSS was found in 14.8 % (n=883). Binary logistic regression revealed the highest OR for having had contact with child and adolescent psychiatry was found for the combined group with social anxiety and elevated PTSS (OR = 4.88, 95 % CI = 3.53–6.73, p<001). Significant associations were also found between use of child and adolescent psychiatry and female gender (OR = 2.05, 95 % CI = 1.70–2.45), Swedish birth origin (OR = 1.68, 95 % CI = 1.16–2.42) and living in a small municipality (OR = 1.33, 95 % CI = 1.02–1.73).
Mediation models used peritraumatic reactions (PT): total, physiological arousal (PA), peritraumatic dissociation (PD), and intervention thoughts (IT) and JVQ and TSCC. Of the n=5,332 cases, a total of n=4,483 (84.1%) reported at least one victimizing event (m = 83.0%, f = 85.2%). Of these, 74.9% (n=3,360) also experienced a PT reaction of some kind. The effect mediated by PT tot was b= 0.479, BCa CI [0.342 – 0.640], representing a relatively small effect of 7.6%, κ2=0.076, 95% BCa CI [0.054- 0.101]. The mediating effect of JVQ on TSCC was mediated by PD more for males (b=0.394 BCa CI [0.170-0.636]) than for females (b=0.247, BCa CI [0.021-0.469]). The indirect effect of the JVQ on the TSCC tot mediated by the different PT reactions was significant for PD (b=0.355, BCa CI [0.199- 0.523]. In males a mediating effect of PD could be seen in the different models, while females had a more mixed result. IT did not show any indirect effect in males, but had a mixed effect for females.
The empirical findings in this thesis lead to the conclusion that victimization is highly prevalent in children and youth and is related to health issues. The association of victimization on symptoms was mediated by peritraumatic reactions. Using a comprehensive instrument such as the JVQ provides the researcher or clinician the opportunity to acquire more complete measurement and also makes it possible to identify polyvictimization, a high-level category of events with severe impact on health.