Peer Victimization, Poor Academic Achievement, and the Link Between Childhood Externalizing and Internalizing Problems


  • This research was based on the Québec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. It was supported by the Institut de la Statistique du Québec, the Québec Ministry of Health and Social Services, The Québec Ministry of Families and Seniors, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Fonds Québécois de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture (FQRSC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). We thank the children, parents, and teachers who participated in this study.

concerning this article should be addressed to Frank Vitaro, Research Unit on Children’s Psycho-Social Maladjustment, University of Montreal, 3050 Edouard-Montpetit Blvd, Montreal, QC, Canada H3T 1J7. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study explored whether early elementary school aged children’s externalizing problems impede academic functioning and foster negative social experiences such as peer victimization, thereby making these children vulnerable for developing internalizing problems and possibly increasing their externalizing problems. It also explored whether early internalizing problems contributed to an increase in externalizing problems. The study examined 1,558 Canadian children from ages 6 to 8 years. Externalizing and internalizing problems, peer victimization, and school achievement were assessed annually. Externalizing problems lead to academic underachievement and experiences of peer victimization. Academic underachievement and peer victimization, in turn, predicted increases in internalizing problems and in externalizing problems. These pathways applied equally to boys and girls. No links from internalizing to externalizing problems were found.