How Being Ostracized Can Harm Kids

The Effecs of Being Ostracized

Teen sitting alone being ignored by other teens
Vicky Kasala/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Relational aggression in any form can be harmful, but being ostracized may have particularly devastating effects. Here are some of the harmful effects of being ostracized or socially excluded.

Being Ostracized Affects Behavior

People who were ostracized for a short time in a laboratory setting changed their behaviors markedly. In particular, they acted less energetically and more impulsively than their peers.

Social exclusion may be so powerful because it targets our evolutionary needs for protection and group acceptance.

Moods Change Due to Ostracism

Being ostracized can also lead to changes in mood. Victims of social exclusion feel more negatively in general. In particular, they show increases in anger and sadness compared to people who are not ostracized.

People Who Are Ostracized Have Less Interest in Life

Victimized individuals also relate to themselves and the world around them differently than non-victimized peers. In a study of temporary social exclusion, researchers found that ostracized people felt that time was dragging by and thought that life was less meaningful than people who were not excluded. They were also less willing to reflect on themselves.

Being Ostracized May Increase The Risk of Suicide

In part due to the effects already mentioned, individuals who have been socially excluded may be at higher risk of suicide.

Studies have shown that even temporary social exclusion can cause cognitive and emotional changes that match those seen before suicide attempts. For instance, socially excluded individuals tend to display little to no emotional expression, just like presuicidal individuals.

Ostracism Leads to Increased Aggression

Social exclusion can also lead to increased aggression from victims.

This aggression may be physical, verbal or relational, or a combination of all three. In other words, the victim quickly becomes the bully. This may be particularly notable in girls, who tend to socially exclude others when they believe they are about to be ostracized.


Archer, John, and Coyne, Sarah. An integrative review of indirect, social, and relational aggression. 2005. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 9, 3: 212-230.

Twenge, Jean, Catenese, Kathleen, and Baumeister, Roy. Social exclusion causes self-defeating behavior. 2002. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 83: 606-615.

Continue Reading