Posted by: jedwardswright | February 15, 2012

Bullying and Depression

Every so often a study comes along that seems to prove what I knew all along. I’m betting that you knew it from experience too.

A recent study published in Child Development[i] found that adolescents with depression are more likely to be bullied by their peers because they have trouble establishing friendships. This study’s relevance comes from their conclusion that maybe after all kids aren’t depressed because they are bullied, but bullied because they are depressed

This conclusion was reached after no less than 20 years of data obtained by surveying 4th to 6th graders, their parents and teachers. Children who were depressed in 4th grade were being ostracized by fellow students as early as Grade 5 and had a hard time “fitting in” in Grade 6. This was even truer of girls than boys.

You and I can probably fill the researchers in on what happens in subsequent grades, if they don’t already know. Depressed children entering the teen years become loners, pushed more and more into the outer circle of high school society. The more depressed a teen is the more likely that he or she will become an outcast or scapegoat.

I have observed as a teacher that, particularly in the 7th to 10th grade, students reminded me of a wolf pack as they turned against the weak and defenseless among them, even sometimes literally circling or cornering a trapped victim, then verbally, or even physically, delivering blow after blow.

Adult society has enough difficulty accommodating people with differences. With the overwhelming pressure to conform that exists in teen culture, is it really that surprising that nonconformity is punished even more severely in middle and high school?

Depressed children and teens are the walking wounded, so not only are they likely to attract bullying, they also suffer intensely when insulted or browbeaten. What I would like to tell the authors of this study is this isn’t an either/or question that they are posing.

Yes, initially children attract bullies when they are depressed, but they also become more depressed because they are being bullied. This is not just a cause and effect situation; this is a cycle which develops into a downward spiral.


[i] Christine Kearney. “Depression Linked To Adolescent Bullying.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 11 Feb. 2012. Web.

15 Feb. 2012. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/241531.php&gt;

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