Are depressed kids bully magnets?
February 8th, 2012
11:19 AM ET

Are depressed kids bully magnets?

By Anne Harding,

( - Psychologists, not to mention parents, have long observed that kids who seem depressed tend to have trouble getting along with - and being accepted by - their peers.

What the experts haven't been able to agree on is which comes first, the depression or the social difficulty. Most researchers have supposed that kids who are excluded or bullied become depressed as a result (rather than vice versa), while others have suggested that the two problems go hand in hand and are all but impossible to tease apart.

A new study, published this week in the journal "Child Development," provides some of the strongest evidence to date for a third theory: Kids who cry easily, express negative emotions, and show other signs of depression ultimately suffer socially because they are shunned by their peers and attract the attention of bullies.

"Bullies target youth who are unlikely to fight back," says lead author Karen P. Kochel, Ph.D., an assistant research professor at Arizona State University, in Phoenix. "Youth who are depressed really have the potential to appear vulnerable, and are easy marks for victimization, unfortunately."

Copyright Health Magazine 2012

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Filed under: Behavior • Kids' health • Policy
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. kira

    When I was in middle school I had to spend one month with my shy cousin. It was horrible for both of us. We both didn't have the social skills and verbal skills to create a good relationship. I kept bullying her for not speaking out, for always being quiet and not speak at all. I also felt like she was not returning my efforts to be friendly. I never considered the fact that she came from a different background, parents who don't let her speak her mind and that she felt vulnerable being apart from her mother. For kids it's hard to understand stuff unless they are guided a bit.. At school I didn't speak up my mind either, my friends had it worse and were bullied because they were introverted and therefore looked different. I think my friends were a bit depressed too. Whenever I see bullies defending themselves they say that the person they bullied gave the bullies a reason. Of course to adults, someone being quiet cannot be a reason to bully, but for kids that can be annoying and especially in modern days when culture is so focused on being loud and having fun, the quiet/darker people who don't see life as all fun is such a downer among peer groups and can cause hatred and anger. They sometimes serve as reminders to the kids who want to just have fun all the time that life might not be good. For kids that's a cause of hate. Adults really don't get this. But that's why there are these mean girls at school who claim that the less popular kids didn't make the effort=look bubbly, dress in bright colors etc. etc.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
    • kira

      Anyways, schools and so many places kids are forced to get along at, are so artificial and unrealistic. Kids who got enough attention from moms never become helpless bullied kids or bullies. It's all about seeking attention, wanting the person return favors, having control over others just to have some control over unpredictable life. Adutls don't know that kids show these fears and push them to be friendly when they are not capable or willing to do that.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
  2. Portland tony

    Are teens depressed because they feel rejected (or bullied) by certain peer groups or do certain peer groups reject (bully) a teen because they appear depressed? Or a little bit of both?

    February 9, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  3. kelsea+skye

    yes I think that depressed kids are bully magnets because they don't have enough self confidence so they don't defend them selves so they get more upset because of what the bully says or does.

    February 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm |