New study: Adolescents suffering from depression more likely to be bullied

A new study provides evidence that adolescents who suffer from depression are more likely to develop difficulty in peer relationships including being bullied at school.

It's often assumed that being bullied leads to , such as depression, but the study doesn't support this line of thought.

"Often the assumption is that problematic peer relationships drive depression. We found that predicted negative peer relationships," said Karen Kochel, Arizona State University School of Social and Family Dynamics assistant research professor. "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."

The new research is published in the journal Child Development. The article, Longitudinal Associations among Youths' Depressive Symptoms, , and Low Peer Acceptance: An Interpersonal Process Perspective, was authored by: Arizona State University School of Social and Family Dynamics Professor Gary Ladd; Karen Kochel, who conducted the study for her dissertation; and Karen Rudolph of the University of Illinois.

Being depressed in fourth grade predicted peer victimization in fifth grade and difficulty with peer acceptance in sixth grade, according to the research.

The researchers examined data from 486 youths from fourth to sixth grade. Parents, teachers, peers and students themselves provided information through yearly surveys. Data was collected as part of a large-scale that began in 1992 and continued for nearly two decades.

"Adolescence is the time when we see escalate, particularly in girls," Kochel said. This may be due to the onset of puberty or interpersonal challenges, such as emotionally demanding peer and , which are often experienced during adolescence.

Teachers and parents were asked to identify classic signs of depression – crying a lot, lack of energy, etc. - when determining which children suffered from the malady. They defined peer victimization as bullying that was manifested physically, verbally, or relationally, such as hitting someone, saying mean things, talking behind someone's back or picking on someone.

"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," Kochel said.

Research shows that having positive peer relationships is crucial for adapting to certain aspects of life such as scholastic achievement and functioning in a healthy manner psychologically, Kochel said.

"If adolescent depression forecasts peer relationship problems, then recognizing depression is very important at this particular age. This is especially true given that social adjustment in adolescence appears to have implications for functioning throughout an individual's lifetime," Kochel said.

School may be the best place to observe and address adolescent signs of depression since students typically start spending more time with their friends and less with their parents as they become adolescents, according to the social scientists.

"We studied peer relationships within the school context. Parents tend not to observe these relationships," Kochel said. "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 ."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Psychological bullying hits just as hard

May 23, 2007

School bullying doesn’t have to leave physical bumps and bruises to contribute to a hostile and potentially dangerous school environment. Behavior that intentionally harms another individual, through the manipulation of ...

Jeers of peers may affect adolescent adjustment

Aug 06, 2008

New research suggests that traits such as obesity during adolescence that may increase the risk of attacks from peers can result in health and psychological struggles that remain through young adulthood. The researchers say ...

Youth's social problems contribute to anxiety and depression

Mar 25, 2008

Socially successful children tend to have fewer symptoms of anxiety or depression, while children with problems such as anxiety and depression tend to have difficulties forming relationships and being accepted by friends. ...

Recommended for you

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

Nov 21, 2014

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

Nov 21, 2014

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

Could there be a bright side to depression?

Nov 21, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A group of researchers studying the roots of depression has developed a test that leads them closer to the idea that depression may actually be an adaptation meant to help people cope with ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.