What Happens When Kids Are Outcast

Being outcast from one's peers may be one of the most common traumatic events of childhood. Here's the information you need to help your child handle social rejection.

What It Means to Be Ostracized

Three schoolgirls (12-14) talking in huddle, fourth girl looking on
Erin Patrice O'Brien/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Ostracism may occur intentionally or accidentally. When it happens on purpose, it's a ​form of relational aggression and can be quite painful to the child who is outcast.

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What It Feels Like to Be an Outcast

Ostracized kids typically feel pain at first, regardless of who has rejected them. If the ostracism continues, the child may experience one or two deeper stages of rejection. Kids who are outcast for a long period of time suffer the worst effects.

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The Effects of Being Outcast

Kids who are outcast can suffer from a number of far-reaching and long-lasting negative effects. Possible effects of ostracism include mood issues and suicide attempts.

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Why Being Outcast Causes so Much Pain

Ostracism attacks key psychological needs, including a need for belonging and self esteem. Tweens especially struggle with these two needs as friendship becomes more important to them and self esteem becomes more vulnerable.

Why Girls Often Use Ostracism

Girls are particularly vulnerable to being outcast. When they're threatened with being excluded themselves, they use ostracism more often than boys do. This probably happens due to the social structure of female groups.

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The Opposite of Ostracism

The opposite of being outcast is being socially included. Being part of the social group can positively affect tweens' self-esteem and help satisfy their need for belonging.

How Kids Become Socially Included Again

After being outcast, most kids fight to be reintegrated into the social group. They go about this in a variety of ways. Common strategies include acting more easygoing and being open to friendships with a greater variety of peers.

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