Bullying and Depression in Youth with ADHD: A Systematic Review

Jessica A. Simmons, Kevin M. Antshel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Youth with attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at increased independent risk for bullying involvement or depression yet the topic of bullying involvement and depression in ADHD is poorly understood and largely considered without a guiding theoretical framework. Objective: The primary aim of this review was to synthesize the bullying: depression in ADHD literature using existing bullying and ADHD: depression frameworks and consider the current state of evidence supporting or contradicting these models. Secondary aims included reviewing the limitations of the existing research and providing recommendations for future research. Method: Electronic databases were used to select articles published on this topic. Quantitative, peer reviewed empirical studies conducted on youth with ADHD who were assessed for bullying involvement and depressive symptoms were included. Thirteen studies met strict inclusion criteria. Results: Uniformly, the existing studies reported positive associations between ADHD symptoms/diagnoses, bullying involvement and depressive symptoms. ADHD served as a diathesis for bullying involvement which in turn acted as a moderator of the relation between ADHD symptoms and depressive symptoms (i.e., depression emerges in youth with ADHD if and when they get involved in bullying). Some support, although less voluminous, also existed for bullying involvement as a mediator, or explaining factor, in the link between ADHD and depressive symptoms. Conclusion: Positive associations were reported consistently between bullying involvement and depressive symptoms in youth with ADHD. Findings also suggest that bullying involvement may serve as both a moderator (where bullying increases risk of depression in youth with ADHD) and as a potential mediator of the relationship between ADHD and depression (where bullying is one mechanism whereby ADHD may lead to depression). However, additional longitudinal research is needed to test the temporal associations implied by mediational models, or intervention research aimed at reducing bullying involvements leads to decreased risk of depression in youth with ADHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-414
Number of pages36
JournalChild and Youth Care Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • ADHD
  • Bullying
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression
  • Peer victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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