December 22, 2010

Depression in Kids Without Friends

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It was reported that kids without friends have the potential to become social outcasts, and possibly risk spiraling into depression by adolescence.  Making friends can be hard for some children, especially for the most shy and withdrawn; however, friends can be a form of protection against the sadness.

"The long-term effects of being a withdrawn child are enduringly negative," which lead author William M. Bukowski, a psychology professor and director of the Concordia Centre for Research in Human Development, was quoted as saying.  "Over time, we found that withdrawn kids showed increasing levels of sadness and higher levels of depressive feelings."

In a three-year study spanning third through fifth grade, a total of 130 girls and 101 boys took part.  These social butterflies and wallflowers were asked to rate whether they felt shy or preferred in fact to be alone.  It was also reported that peers typically exclude children with poor social skills "“ those who are viewed as overly aggressive or immature.

In comparison with friendless children, those who had friends were less likely to report depressed feelings.  "Friendship disrupts the negative and long-term effects of withdrawal," said Dr. Bukowski, who is additionally Concordia University Research Chair in Psychology.  "Friendship promotes resilience and protects at-risk kids from internalizing problems such as feeling depressed and anxious."

Withdrawal can have consequences that extend beyond the near term.  "In much the same was as a snowball rapidly grows as it rolls down a hill, an adjustment problem is thought to amplify as it worsens," adds Dr. Bukowski.  "Being isolated and excluded from the peer group can increase levels of depressed feelings in children and those negative feelings can escalate throughout adolescence."

The way to avoid peer rejection is to make at least one friend.  "Having one friend can be protective for withdrawn or shy kids," concludes Dr. Bukowski.  "Our study confirms the value of having friends, which are like a shield against negative social experiences."

SOURCE: Development and Psychology, December 22, 2010