Very-low-income students are a population at a high risk of perpetrating and suffering bullying at school, and at the same time the peer group at school is often one of the few sources of support for these minors.
This two-wave study is aimed to disambiguate the two different roles of peer acceptance and friendship on bullying and victimization in very-low-income adolescents, exploring the possible differential role of immigrant background.
An online survey was administered to 249 early to late adolescents living below the poverty threshold (Mage = 12.76; SDage = 2.34; 41.8% girls; 19.3% immigrants). A multivariate regression model with multi-group analyses was applied.
Our results indicated that peer friendship was a protective factor against bullying as well as victimization, whilst peer acceptance was not protective. Only for natives (but not for immigrants), a high level of peer acceptance was a risk factor for bullying, and low school achievement was a risk factor for victimization. The persistence of victimization over time was significantly stronger for immigrants than for natives.
The study provides new insights for the unique protective role of classmates’ friendship in natives and immigrants, while acceptance appeared to be less relevant. Research and applied implications are discussed.