A new study has shown that children who are depressed, anxious and aggressive in first grade are more likely to become a victim of bullies by third grade.
Researchers from University of Victoria studied more than 400 Canadian first graders and asked the, about their experiences being bullied (such as being hit, pushed, and shoved, or being teased and excluded from play).
The teachers were asked to report on the children's symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as on their displays of physical aggression.
Nearly, 73 percent of the kids showed few symptoms of depression and anxiety over the three years. But 7 percent of the children showed continuously high levels.
And the remaining 20 percent showed moderate symptoms at first, but these increased over time.
The study showed that children with more depressed and anxious symptoms in first and second grade were more likely to be victimized by third grade.
Moreover, children who were more aggressive at the start of first grade also were prone to depression and anxiety by third grade.
These children also were more likely to be victimized by their peers, perhaps in retaliation for their own acts of aggression.
"Children's early mental health problems can set the stage for abuse by their peers," according to Bonnie J. Leadbeater, professor of psychology at the University of Victoria, who led the study.
"Just as some children learn to read with greater difficulty than others and require extra assistance when they begin to lag behind their peers, young children with mental health problems show signs that they cannot manage the complex social world of elementary school.
"Treating children's mental health problems may go a long way toward reducing bullying," he added.
The study appears in the journal Child Development.