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Student Popularity May Be Link Between Academic Success and Risk of Depression

Early School Struggles May Impact Popularity, Setting Stage for Depression

A new study suggests that children struggling in elementary school are less liked by their teachers and peers, opening them up to a higher risk of depression.

The research from the University of Missouri show the significant impact academic performance can have on a student’s mental and social well-being, according to researchers.

“Plenty of research before this study has shown that children who struggle in elementary school are more likely to experience feelings of frustration and worthlessness, which can put them at greater risk for depression,” said Dr. Keith Herman, a professor in the MU College of Education. “Now we’re finding that there is a link, with clues that a child’s social life can be impacted by their success in class.”

The researchers studied 380 elementary school children and their teachers to examine how early academic struggles can lead to future depressive symptoms.

Teachers in first and second grade rated how well-liked a student seemed to be by their peers.

Findings from the study indicated that academic problems in first grade led to lower levels of likeability in second grade, which in turn predicted depression in third grade.

According to Herman, teachers and students can use this knowledge to find ways to help students address academic and social challenges before they have a lasting negative impact.

He suggests that teachers and parents be wary of any subtle messages and judgments they might be sending to children who are experiencing troubles in class or with peers, while finding ways to identify and help children experiencing difficulties with math and reading.

“Teachers and parents should also think about giving as much encouragement and positive attention to children on other areas in which they excel,” Herman said. “Maybe they struggle with math, but they excel at art. If a child feels like their passions and talents are valued, they are more likely to have a positive outlook on their self-worth.”

The study was published in Child Development.

Source: University of Missouri

Photo: Keith Herman, a professor in the MU College of Education, studied 380 elementary school children and their teachers to examine how early academic struggles can lead to future depressive symptoms. Credit: University of Missouri.

Early School Struggles May Impact Popularity, Setting Stage for Depression

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2019). Early School Struggles May Impact Popularity, Setting Stage for Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2019/02/24/early-school-struggles-may-impact-popularity-setting-stage-for-depression/143148.html
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 24 Feb 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 24 Feb 2019
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