Bullying and Depression

Motor Coordination Disorder: Bullying and Depression

Dr Shelley Hyman

Developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a neuro-developmental condition that is characterised by an inability to perform everyday motor-based tasks such as writing, catching a ball etc.

It may often masked by other behavioural disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or emotional difficulties. It is a chronic health condition that if left untreated or monitored, can persist into adulthood.

Numerous research has looked into the relationship between DCD and depression, many reporting that it is due to the secondary consequences associated with DCD that result in an increase risk in depression. This includes social isolation as well as personality problems and having low self-esteem.

Also it may be due to the physical limitations that children with DCD may have such as not being able to participate in sports at school due to their motor-based impairments.

Bullying or peer victimisation has been shown to be a contributing factor to the increase risks of depression in children with DCD. This is because they exhibited a number of vulnerabilities such as being clumsy, awkward, and unable to perform basic tasks, all of which increase the likelihood of them being bullied.

Bullying can take form in 3 ways, physical victimisation such as violence, scratching, kicking, verbal victimisation such as name-calling and teasing and relational victimisation such as social exclusion and gossiping.

Campbell et al. (2012) examined this issue and compared levels of depression and bullying in children who were at risk of DCD and those who were not. They also examined whether there was a gender difference in this effect.

Children were asked to complete a number of  questionnaires measuring peer victimisation and depression during their class time at school after parental consent was given. Parents also filled out a motor coordination questionnaire to determine whether their child was at risk of DCD or not.

Campbell et al. (2012) found that children at risk for DCD reported more depressive symptoms than those not at risk. Children at risk of motor coordination problems were also more likely to have been the victimised by their peers through verbal and relational bullying.

Interestingly, there was no difference between children at risk of DCD or not at risk on physical victimisation, ie kicking and hitting. They also found that there was no difference between genders, suggesting that regardless of gender, children were more likely to have greater levels of depression if they were bullied.

Finally, they found that bullying and peer victimisation had a higher association with depression than motor coordination status. Relational bullying in particular was strongly associated with depression compared to the other types of peer victimisation.

Therefore it is important that if children are suspected of having motor coordination problems, parents should intervene early in order to minimise the likelihood of developing depression as a result of being bullied at school.

Alanna Wong


  • Campbell, W. N., Missiuna, C., & Vaillancourt, T. (2012). Peer victimisation and depression in children with and without motor coordination difficulties. Psychology in the Schools, 49(9), 328-341.
Dr Shelley Hyman

About Dr Shelley Hyman

Senior Clinical Neuropsychologist. BSc (psychol) Hons, MClinNeuropsych, PhD (Med) MAPS CCN. Founder and director of the centre that was founded in 2006.