May 15, 2009

Depressed first-grade kids bullied later

First-grade children with signs of depression, anxiety or aggression are at risk of being victimized by peers by third grade, Canadian researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Victoria asked some 400 Canadian children beginning first grade if they were bullied -- such as being hit, pushed and shoved, or being teased and excluded from play.

The children's teachers were asked to report on the children's symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as on their displays of physical aggression.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, found 73 percent of children showed few symptoms of depression and anxiety over the three years.

But 7 percent of the children showed continuously high levels of depressive symptoms. The remaining 20 percent showed moderate symptoms at first, but these increased over time.

Study leader Bonnie J. Leadbeater said victimization by depressed and anxious children wasn't evident until third grade.

Children's early mental health problems can set the stage for abuse by their peers, Leadbeater said in a statement.