By Anne Harding, Health.com
(Health.com) -- 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."