(dailyRx News) Many people assume that when kids are bullied, it leads to depression. While that might be true, it might be more the other way around.
Research shows that kids who suffer from depression are more likely to have difficult relationships with their peers, including becoming the victims of bullying.
A new study at Arizona State University provides evidence of this opposite chain-of-reaction: that it is not the problematic peer relationships that drive depression as much as the fact of depressed kids being more likely to suffer bullying and other negative relationships with peers. The research looked at the issue from both directions.
Karen Kochel at ASU's School of Social and Family Dynamics led the longitudinal study, which examined data from 486 youth between fourth and sixth grades. The data was collected beginning in 1992 and for nearly two decades afterward, from surveys completed by the students and their peers as well as teachers and parents, who were asked to identify classic signs of depression such as crying and lack of energy.
Researchers found that when kids were depressed in fourth grade, it predicted peer victimization in fifth grade and difficulty with peer acceptance by sixth grade.
Peer victimization was identified as physical or verbal bullying, saying mean things, talking behind someone's back, hitting them or picking on them. Having positive peer relationships is crucial for scholastic achievement and healthy psychological function, Kochel says.
“If adolescent depression forecasts peer relationship problems, then recognizing depression is very important at this particular age,” Kochel said.
“This is especially true given that social adjustment in adolescence appears to have implications for functioning throughout an individual’s lifetime.”
She adds that the research is telling because the peer relationships were studied in the school contest, where parents tend not to observe.
And adolescence is a time when depressive symptoms escalate, especially in girls. “Teachers, administrators and parents need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression and the possibility that depression is a risk factor for problematic peer relations."
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and published in the journal Child Development in February 2012.