Development and Psychopathology


Depressed mood and peer rejection in childhood

Michel Boivina1 c1, François Poulina1 and Frank Vitaroa2

a1 Université Laval, Québec

a2 Université de Montréal, Research Unit on Children's Social Maladjustment


The purpose of the present study was to compare the depression profile of four subtypes of peer-rejected children and a group of neglected children to a normative sample and evaluate whether or not these subgroups showed distinctive patterns. A total of 140 children were selected on the basis of peer status and peer assessment of social behavior. Depressed mood was evaluated by self-reports and peer assessments. As expected, withdrawn-rejected children expressed stronger feelings of depression, both generally (i.e., higher Child Depression Inventory [CDI] scores) and specifically (i.e., energy/interest), as well as more loneliness and social dissatisfaction than the normative group. They were also seen by their peers as being sadder. The aggressive-withdrawn-rejected children displayed results that were very similar to those of withdrawn-rejected children. They manifested stronger feelings of depression both generally (i.e., higher CDI scores) and specifically (i.e., mood/affect) and expressed more loneliness and social dissatisfaction than the normative group. They were also nominated more often as getting their feelings hurt easily and as being usually sad. Contrary to expectations, aggressive-rejected children were also found to differ from the normative children but only on a general index of depression, not on the more specific measures nor on loneliness and social dissatisfaction. Also, they did not differ from the normative sample on the peer assessment items. The neglected children did not differ from the normative sample on any of the self-report or peer assessment measures. The results concerning withdrawn-rejected and aggressive-withdrawn-rejected children suggest that peer rejection could play a mediating role with respect to feelings of distress and confirm that these children are at risk for internalizing problems. The pattern of results for aggressive-rejected children suggests that peer rejection may not play such a role.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Michel Boivin, Ecole Psychologie Pavillon F. A. Savard, Université Laval, Ste-Foy, Québec, Canada G1K 7P4.