(dailyRx News) It is often assumed that bullying can lead to academic, social, and health problems in adolescents. It is a serious health problem, but new research suggests that it may be the other way around.
A study spanning nearly two decades of observation of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders states that, in fact, a child may develop depression and then become a target for bullies. Other problematic social relationships are also common.
The study was conducted Gary Ladd, Ed.D., of the Arizona State University School of Social and Family Dynamics; Karen Kochel, Ph.D., who conducted the study for her dissertation; and Karen Rudolph, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois.
Kochel, now a Arizona State University School of Social and Family Dynamics assistant research professor, believes that we have been misconceiving the relationship between bullying and depression.
"Often the assumption is that problematic peer relationships drive depression. We found that depression symptoms predicted negative peer relationships. We examined the issue from both directions but found no evidence to suggest that peer relationships forecasted depression among this school-based sample of adolescents," said Kochel.
Students who showed signs of depression in 4th grade tended to be victims of bullying in 5th. Difficulty with peer acceptance followed in 6th grade.
What can parents do to help prevent depression?
Child psychiatrist Russell J. Ricci, M.D., says that “preventing the emergence of sadness and then depression in a child takes good nutrition, education, love and attention. And that will help prevent bullying. Care givers, especially single parents, should seek out support so that they can give support to their children.”
Kochel adds that “because depression has the potential to undermine the maturation of key developmental skills, such as establishing healthy peer relationships, it's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of adolescent depression."
The study was published in February in the journal Child Development and was funded by the National Institutes of Health. No conflicts were reported.