Most of us think that being bullied makes children depressed, but a new study finds a different story: kids who show signs of depression are more likely to attract the wrath of bullies.
Published in the journal Child Development, the study followed 486 children through fourth, fifth, and sixth grade, monitoring the students' depression symptoms and surveying parents, teachers, and the kids themselves to find out how well they got along with peers.
Fourth graders who showed signs of depression were more likely than their classmates to be victimized as fifth graders, and kids who were picked on in fifth grade tended to be less accepted by their peers in sixth grade.
By contrast, the researchers found little evidence that being bullied increased a child's risk of becoming depressed in later grades.
Lead author Karen P. Kochel, Ph.D., an assistant research professor at Arizona State University, says bullies tend to seek out victims who are unlikely to fight back, and depression can make kids appear vulnerable. Depression can also leave children without the social skills they need to cope.
The findings, Kochel says, drive home how important it is for parents and teachers to be aware of the signs of depression in children, arrange for treatment if needed, and help depressed children socialize and get along with their peers. The cycle of depression and victimization is likely to get worse if left unchecked, since depressive symptoms tend to intensify during the teen years, she says.
You can find more on depression symptoms in children here.
Image: Upset boy with backpack via Shutterstock.