Social Exclusion in Adolescents: A Common Form of Bullying

Social exclusion can be common for adolescents in middle and high school. Whether not being chosen for games or purposefully excluding kids in numerous situations, the consequences are extremely harmful. Salmivalli states, “Bullying can be direct, such as physical or verbal attacks, indirect (also referred to as relational bullying), such as social exclusion and rumor-spreading, or it can happen online. The adolescent period of life consists of elevated risk for the onset of anxiety and depression, and peer victimization is predictive of both” (Salmivalli et al., 2021). Social exclusion can seriously affect teenagers in the short and long term.

Here are some of the potential consequences of social exclusion:

Mental Health Problems

Social exclusion can lead to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem in teenagers. These mental health problems can harm their overall well-being and may affect their ability to function in their daily lives. Although there is a possibility that depression among teenagers can disappear over time, “40—70% of children and adolescents still have the possibility of relapse within five years [of experiencing bullying]. Indeed, depression is one of the most common mental health problems in children and adolescents and mainly manifests as a persistent decline in academic performance, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty in making friends, and poor sleep quality” (Ye et al., 2023). In recent years, studies have found that bullying and being bullied predict depression in children and adolescents. 

Academic Problems

Social exclusion can also affect a teenager’s academic performance. When teenagers feel socially excluded, they may be more likely to skip school, have difficulty concentrating, and have lower academic achievement. Teen stress levels are much higher when experiencing social exclusion and bullying, making it more difficult to stay focused on academics. If your teen is experiencing low grades and is skipping classes, they may be the victim of bullying at school.

Questions to Ask Your Teen Related to Social Exclusion

To understand if your teen might be experiencing social exclusion, it might be beneficial to ask your teen questions like,

  • Do you have friends at school that you feel safe with?
  • What is your friend circle like?
  • What was the best and worst part of your day?
  • Do you feel included and accepted by your classmates? Are there times when you feel left out or excluded?
  • How do you feel about your friendships at school? Do you have supportive friends who make you feel good about yourself?
  • Are there any places at school where you feel unsafe or unwelcome? Is there a specific area or group of students that you tend to avoid?
  • How do you feel about your overall well-being and self-esteem? Are there any factors at school that contribute to feelings of insecurity or low self-confidence?
  • Have specific incidents or situations at school made you uncomfortable or upset recently?

Approach these questions with empathy and create a safe space for your teen to express themselves. It’s important to listen actively, validate their experiences, and provide support if they disclose any concerns about bullying or social exclusion.

Risky Behaviors

Social exclusion can also lead to risky behaviors such as substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide. These behaviors can be a way for teenagers to cope with the emotional pain of social exclusion. Since adolescence can be a vulnerable time, teens may not feel safe enough to disclose their feelings to their parents, including the immense pain that being bullied causes. It is very imperative for your teen to feel safe and heard during this time so they can process the pain. 

Addressing Social Exclusion

It is important to address social exclusion early on and provide support and resources to help teenagers navigate these challenges. Addressing social exclusion can help teenagers build resilience, improve their mental health, and develop healthy relationships.

If you feel your teen needs someone to talk to, please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists, who will lovingly listen and help them walk through this difficult time. 

By: Lindsey Schmid, LPC-A


Salmivalli, C., Laninga, W. L., Malamut, S. T., & Garandeau, C. F. (2021). Bullying Prevention in Adolescence: Solutions and New Challenges from the Past Decade. Journal of Research on Adolescence (Wiley-Blackwell), 31(4), 1023–1046.

Ye, Z., Wu, D., He, X., Ma, Q., Peng, J., Mao, G., Feng, L., & Tong, Y. (2023). Meta-analysis of the relationship between bullying and depressive symptoms in children and adolescents. BMC Psychiatry, 23(1), 1–13.

Firefly Therapy Austin is Affordable, Effective Therapy for Austin, Texas.
Find out more about our Therapists and Specialties.