Funded Projects

Research that shapes the future

The Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families & Schools is an interdisciplinary research center in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Understanding Early Adolescents Coping with Peer Threat: Insecurity as a Risk Factor for Psychopathology

Project Information

Principal Investigator: Meredith Martin
Co-Principal Investigator:
Funding Agency: Layman Award
Award Date:
Theme: Academic Intervention & Learning, Research & Evaluation Methods, Psychosocial Development & Social-Emotional Learning
Project URL: N/A

For more information please contact Meredith Martin at


Ranging from social isolation to targeted violence, peer victimization is a prevalent and potent risk factor for children and adolescents. To ensure the safe and secure social environments that reduce victimization, school districts need effective methods of prevention and intervention.

This study examines how youth cope with victimization and explores ways to reduce the public health burden, which can include anxiety, depression, school dropout, criminal behavior, substance abuse and suicide.

Two assessments developed through this study to study peer insecurity: the Peer Social Defense Inventory, a self-report questionnaire for youths’ affective and behavioral responses to peer threat; and the Go/No-Go Association Task, an implicit cognitive task that captures internal representations of the peer group.

Using these assessments, data will be collected from 150 youth, ages 11-16, attending a Nebraska school during the 2017-18 academic year. Participants will complete the assessments twice during the school year, about three months apart. Once data is gathered, it will be analyzed to determine how contextual characteristics shape students’ response and what demographics are most affected.

The research is designed to provide a better understanding of the Peer Social Defense Framework, which asserts that safety and security are fundamental psychological goals motivating children’s responses to interpersonal threats.