Boys do tend to be more physical, but both sexes engage in relational victimization. We wanted to see if gender affected strength of the relationship between depressive symptoms and victimization.
But researchers found no gender difference in the link between this type of bullying and depression. They also discovered that having friends or other positive social relationships didnt lessen rates of depression and anxiety in adulthood, a finding that surprised them, Dempsey said.
For some children, having friends and positive support can help make them more resilient to the slings and arrows from bullies, Storch said. But other children take the words and abuse more to heart and begin to believe whats being said about them.
Those types of negative thoughts are actually believed to be at the core of things like depression and anxiety, Storch said. Behaviorally what starts happening is you avoid interactions and situations that could be quite positive for you.
Currently, there are few prevention or intervention programs that focus specifically on relational victimization, in part because its tougher to pinpoint and stop, Dempsey said.
If a child tries to punch someone or kick someone, theres evidence of that happening, Dempsey said. Theres a definite aggressor and a definite victim. When it comes to spreading rumors and gossiping, thats a lot more difficult to prove whos doing it. And its harder to provide consequences.
Dempsey said she hopes this study and others will help other researchers and psychologists design programs that can help stop this form of bullying in schools.
I think many people have the belief that victimization is a normal rite
|Contact: April Frawley Birdwell|
University of Florida