Friendships Reduce the Risk of Being Bullied

Being the target of bullying can cause a child to internalize and experience a decrease in self-worth. Many children who are victims of bullying become isolated and withdrawn, and often have a limited social circle of friends. “Because many of the correlates and predictors of peer victimization are common in children with ADHD, it is not surprising that children with ADHD are at elevated risk for peer victimization,” said Stephanie L. Cardoos of the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Although more is known about risk factors for victimization than about protective factors, one well-established protective factor for those at risk of victimization is friendship.” Cardoos and her colleague Stephen P. Hinshaw recently conducted a study to determine what affect friendship would have on bullying. “The overall purpose is to understand factors that may both predict and protect  against peer victimization in girls with ADHD, with a particular focus on friendship as a protective factor,” said Cardoos.

The researchers examined data from 228 girls between the ages of 6 and 12, half of whom had ADHD. The girls were evaluated by counselors at several points during a five week summer camp program and the girls listed who they considered to be their friends and which girls they did and did not like. The team found that all of the girls who were bullied exhibited similar symptoms, regardless of whether they had ADHD or not. “Our core finding was that the presence of a mutual friendship moderated the association between each behavioral risk factor and victimization, such that the presence of at least one friend reduced risk of victimization,” said Cardoos. “The current findings suggest that even for those who may be at elevated risk for deleterious peer effects, such as girls with ADHD, peers can play an important protective role.” She added, “If friends protect by intervening directly in challenging peer situations, it will be important for at-risk children to develop a friend in their natural peer group. In contrast, if friends are most important in increasing self-esteem, interventions outside of the natural peer group may be equally protective.”

Cardoos, Stephanie L., and Stephen P. Hinshaw. “Friendship as Protection from Peer Victimization for Girls with and without ADHD.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 39.3 (2011): 1035-045. Print.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Frannie


    November 22nd, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    Yeah, this is all great, but what happens to the kids who no matter how hard they try can’t seem to make a friend? Who is supposed to be there to stand up for those kids? And how do they ever break down those barriers and make some friends who could help protect them from those who are constantly harassing them?

  • h mcdonald

    h mcdonald

    November 23rd, 2011 at 7:51 AM

    bullies usually seek out those that are alone and bully them.bullying simply doesnt work when two kids or a larger group is involved in the victim frame.

    so friendships would definitely protect a child from bullying.

    the bully does not have special powers,he just takes advantage of a victim being alone and knowing that the victim has no support in the form of friends at school(or elsewhere).

    important point that needs to be communicated to as many as possible.bullying is one thing I’m hoping would disappear forever since my own days in school.

  • Blakely


    November 23rd, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Know what is so sad about this is that sometimes those so called friends do nothing when they see someone being bullied. They do nothing because they are too afraid of becoming a target themselves if they step in to do something. I guess I can see how they feel but I sure do hope that if this ever happened to someone that I knew that I would be strong enough to step in and do something.

  • Jane Scott

    Jane Scott

    November 24th, 2011 at 12:42 AM

    Friendships reduce the risk because there is safety in numbers. Bullies won’t tackle a kid that’s surrounded by a dozen friends. Cowards that they are, they sniff out the loners and make them their victims. Which proves that bullies themselves know they aren’t as invincible as they would like their victims to believe.

  • U.M.


    November 24th, 2011 at 2:12 AM

    I don’t know why schools don’t pay more attention to the more vulnerable students such as those with ADHD. The staff could find a subtle way to engage them,if they are willing, in activities at times like lunch break when bullies are most likely to seek them out. They don’t need to be group activities. In fact most would probably prefer one they can do alone, like being on the computer.

  • Paul


    November 24th, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    As a public school teacher I see this kind of behavior in kids everday and there are times where you definitely want to intervene, but there are some kids who are going to be even more mortified and feel ostracized if the teacher has to jump in and save the day. I would never allow it to progress to anything physical, but there are times when you wish that the kids could work it out among themselves because you know that would make them feel even more empowered and able to handle those problems.

  • peter


    November 25th, 2011 at 12:59 AM

    fiends are a great asset at any it in school,college,workplace or in the neighborhood.and I mean good friends and not just he ones that hang out with you just for the heck of it.a friend in need is a friend indeed! :)

  • Fran


    November 26th, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    My kids were never bullied as far as I know, but I was always concerned that they had friends and the right sort of friends that they were hanging out with. I know that you can’t always force friendships on your children, but it is nice if you can help them to build these relationships at an early age and help them to foster those as they get older. It teaches them how to behave in a social group and social setting and gives them the ability to make new friends and hopefully head off the bullies even when they get older and have outgrown that initial peer group that you may have once helped them to establish.

  • kevin spearman

    kevin spearman

    November 27th, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Sometimes it is like the adults involved get just as intimdated by the bullies as the bullied kids are. But not me- mess with my kid and you have not see trouble like that that I can bring on!

  • K. Erskine

    K. Erskine

    November 28th, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    @U.M. :I agree. Don’t talk about how to handle bullies then leave the kid to their mercy. Give them a sanctuary in the school building, a place they can escape to or hang out in if need be that doesn’t have crowds there and the bully could not get to without a staff member seeing him/her. Not every kid will report a bully but they would still welcome a bolthole somewhere.

    Educators should think in practical terms about bullying as well as the emotional and psychological side. The main thing is to place a physical gulf between the victim and the perp first and make them feel safe.

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