Previous research suggests that depression can lead to toxic peer relationships, emphasizing the need for adolescents to have concrete relationships with their peers because this can help them adapt to other aspects of life.
This study conducted by lead author Dr. Martin Guhn, and published in Springer's Journal of Happiness Studies, also finds that social support from peers, adults, or both, actually decreases the negative results of bullying in school girls, notably, depression and anxiety.
Guhn and his colleagues examined whether the combination of elevated levels of bullying and low levels of social support have a range of harmful effects on children's well-being.
During the study, 3,026 ten-year-old school children from 72 schools in Vancouver, Canada, completed surveys that measured their self-esteem, levels of depression and anxiety, and satisfaction with life.
The researchers analyzed whether the ratings for these factors differed in relation to the children's relationships with both their peers and adults, as well as how frequently they felt bullied.
Results showed that girls were more likely to report positive relationships with both adults and peers, elevated self-esteem, as well as higher levels of anxiety, and high satisfaction with life.
There were no significant differences between girls' and boys' documented levels of depression and bullying. Verbal and social bullying were more commonly documented than physical bullying, with 1 in 6 boys, and 1 in 7 girls feeling victimized multiple times a week. Cyber bullying was quite low, as seen in previous studies.
Guhn and his team also found that supportive relationships with adults and peers were associated with life satisfaction and self esteem, while bullying was significantly associated with depression and anxiety.
Also seen was an important link between bullying and low life satisfaction, low self-esteem, and depression in girls who documented low levels of social support from peers and adults.
The researchers conclude:
"Our findings have implications for promoting children's well-being in school and community contexts, supporting interventions that foster relationship-building skills and simultaneously reduce victimization. In other words, children need more than the absence of risk factors to experience good mental health and well-being."
Written by Kelly Fitzgerald