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Lifetime victimization experiences, depressiveness, suicidality, and feelings of loneliness in youth in care.

BACKGROUND: Research has demonstrated the damaging effects of poly-victimization on the mental health of children and adolescents. However, few studies have been conducted in high-risk youth in care (Y-IC) samples.

OBJECTIVE: The study examines the frequency of lifetime victimization and the association of poly-victimization and victimization types on depressiveness, suicidality, and feelings of loneliness among Y-IC.

PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: 164 participants aged 14 and 21 years (M = 17.39, SD = 1.95), who live in family-based care or residential care.

METHODS: The Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (JVQ) was used to assess lifetime victimization. The Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), and the Loneliness Scale-SOEP (LS-S) to measure depressiveness, suicidality, and loneliness. Hierarchical regression models were calculated.

RESULTS: Participants reported on average 12.66 (SD = 6.58) victimization experiences. The female and diverse gender groups reported higher rates of victimization, loneliness, depressiveness, and suicidality than the males. Participants in residential care reported more victimizations and stronger feelings of loneliness than those in family-based care. Poly-victimization was not associated with any of these internalizing symptoms but peer victimization was significantly associated with depressiveness (β = 0.23, p = .002) and loneliness (β = 0.22, p = .006), sexual victimization with depressiveness (β = 0.22, p = .004).

CONCLUSION: Y-IC show high levels of victimization and internalizing symptoms, with higher burden on girls and youth living in residential care. Findings underscore the relevance of social exclusion experiences among peers within Y-IC. Interventions should address multiple forms of victimization, with a special focus on sexual and peer victimization.

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