The Relationship Between Bullying and Depression: It’s Complicated

Maia Shalavitz
TIME

Children who are ostracized by their peers and bullied often become depressed, but new research suggests that the relationship may work the other way around as well: children’s depressive symptoms in elementary school precede social victimization and isolation later on.

Previous studies that tried to work out whether bullying causes depression, or whether depressed kids become magnets for bullies — or whether the two problems drive each other — have produced conflicting results. However, the new study found a clear path from depressive symptoms in 4th grade to being bullied in 5th grade and rejected more widely by peers in 6th.

Researchers followed 486 children, gauging their symptoms of depression and their levels of social acceptance through confidential surveys filled out by parents, teachers and the kids themselves; the children rated themselves and their classmates. Most of the students were white, 16% were African American and 4% of Hispanic or mixed race. Half were from upper-middle-class or high-income families, a quarter were in the middle class and the rest were low income.

Read More: The Relationship Between Bullying and Depression: It’s Complicated

Related: Influence of Parenting Styles and Bullying Experiences on a Child’s Mental

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