Sexual Orientation Raises Adolescents’ Risk of Being Bullied

Bullying is a major public concern and has prompted further investigation into the risk factors, motivation, and outcomes related to aggressive behavior. Attention has been focused on adolescents as the rising rates of bullying-related suicides in young people have caught the attention of the media and the public in general. Suicide of any kind is a tragedy, especially when the causes leading children to take their own lives could be identified and addressed.

Issues such as identity, body image, socioeconomic status, abuse and perceived sexual orientation (PSO) all affect the risk of bullying. But PSO is one area that makes children especially vulnerable. Therefore, Donald L. Patrick, PhD, of the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington in Washington State recently conducted a study on rates of PSO-related bullying and its outcome among a sample of over 27,000 children in ages 8, 10, and 12.

The participants reported if they were bullied, how often, and why they were bullied. Patrick also assessed the quality of life (QOL) as reported by the participants and evaluated if bullying led to increased risk of depression or suicide among the teens. The results revealed that male students were bullied more than female students because of their PSO, but bullying decreased with age for both boys and girls.

Specifically, 14% of the boys experienced PSO-related bullying in 8th grade, 11% in 10th and 9% in 12th. For the girls, PSO-related bullying occurred in 11% during 8th grade and fell to 10% and 6% during 10th and 12th grades respectively. When Patrick looked at PSO bullying compared to other types of bullying, he found that PSO related bullying occurred at much higher rates for both girls and boys. The participants also had lower QOL and higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation than their nonbullied peers.

“Bullying because of PSO is widely prevalent and significantly affects several facets of youth QOL,” said Patrick, summing up the findings of his study. He added, “Bully-prevention or harm-reduction programs must address bullying because of PSO.”

Patrick, Donald L., PhD, MSPH, et al. (2013). Bullying and quality of life in youths perceived as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in Washington state, 2010. American Journal of Public Health 103.7 (2013): 1255-61. ProQuest. Web.

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  • R Nel

    August 13th, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    I can see why this problem of bullying due to orientation is more pronounced in boys compared to girls.First of all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong.Whats see among boys is that the bullies may associate the orientation of a peer to his manliness.Im gay and proud of it.Let me tell you there is nothing ‘unmanly’ about being gay.Its a choice like any other and every individual has the right to make his own choices.

  • eppy

    August 14th, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    Who you have a sexual relationship is a choice. Gayness is not.

  • chad f

    August 14th, 2013 at 4:10 AM

    A very sad but unfortunately very true fact that most kids who don’t conform to what others in society feel is the norm are generally the ones who will have to live with a whole lot of bullying during those formative adolescent years. . . just the time you are supposed to find out who you are and you learn some terribly harsh lessons about what others think that you are and this is what you come to believe about yourself instead.

  • eppy

    August 14th, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    Bullying is part of our mental heritage back when the idea of “the strongest survive” and yes we are past all that but some of those old and ancient feelings were necessary for survival way back then just as anxiety is a part of our psychological make up because it was, at one time, part of the fight or flight mentality necessary for our survival. Bullying will never go away,however attitudes change with awareness. Change attitudes as naturally occurring feelings will be present for as long as there are human beings. Educate a bully and their actions may change. Sociopathic degrees of bullying will require therapy,no amount of awareness training can fix that.

  • Jason

    August 15th, 2013 at 4:27 AM

    I personally feel that if more parents would step in and advocate for their children then many of these problems would go away.

    We have continually allowed the power to remain in the hands of the bullies, and instead of stepping in to correct the behavior when they are young we allow then=m to go on “being who they are” and believing that not all children are going to be friends and that this is mainly what this is all about.

    But I think that we have seen that bullying has nothing to do with who you are friends with but has everything to do with having control over someone and many kids feel that sexual orientation is one way that differebtiates other kids and that they should be ostracized for.

  • ayna

    August 19th, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    I am not saying this to be any kind of excuse for bullying behavior because it is unacceptable any time it happens, but don’t you think that a lot of times it happens because kids are scared of what they don’t know? many of them have never known openly gay people or they don’t think that they have known them anyway and sometimes when you have never been exposed to feels like a threat to you. So to counteract that fear they gang up up against that which makes them uncomfortable and what they don’t know. I know that must sound like I am mounting a defense for them and I am not not but we have to remember that in many cases these are children too and they have to be taught what is acceptable behavior too.

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