How Social and Sexual Factors Influence the Effects of Bullying

Craig D. DiGiovanni of Boston College, and Brian W. Koenig with K12 Associates in Middleton, Wisconsin, realize the negative social and psychological impact bullying has on adolescents. In a recent study, the team assessed over 15,000 adolescents to determine what factors influenced the effects of bullying. “Students who face bullying report multiple academic and mental health concerns,” said the team. “Multiple studies indicate that LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, & Questioning) youth report greater victimization, distress, and poorer academic performance than heterosexual youth.”

The teens reported their ethnicity and sexual orientation. Additionally, the researchers evaluated victimization, parental support, suicidality and level of school belonging. They found that parental support in white teens was responsible for a decrease in effects felt from bullying. But the same was not true for LGBTQ teens. “Many LGBTQ youth face or fear parent rejection because of their identity,” said the team. “Thus, parent buffering effects may be weaker for these youth.”

The study also revealed that white heterosexual teens and LGBTQ youths were more likely to consider suicide when the victimization was homophobic.  “The effect for heterosexual white youth is congruent with other associations between homophobic victimization and mental health concerns among mostly white heterosexual samples and reports that youth view this as especially stigmatizing,” they said.  “This link to suicidality underscores the need for counseling psychologists to become part of school-based prevention programs, especially those that address the interplay between bullying and prejudice for all students.” They added that teens of color often conceal their sexual orientation, increasing their vulnerability to the stress of victimization. “Specific to LGBTQ youth of color, this finding highlights the need for attention to the intersection of social identities and how this adds complexity to the minority stress model.” They said, “Counseling psychologists may draw on strengths, resources, and coping strategies from youths’ experiences of racial discrimination in ways that could also buffer the effects of homophobic victimization.”

Poteat, V. P., Mereish, E. H., DiGiovanni, C. D., & Koenig, B. W. (2011, August 22). The Effects of General and Homophobic Victimization on Adolescents’ Psychosocial and Educational Concerns: The Importance of Intersecting Identities and Parent Support. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025095

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • jemma


    September 1st, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    when did bullying start to get life-threatening?it used to be a childish thing and I have not heard of too many cases where bullying has gone beyond a certain point.what are the schools doing if such things are happening in their campuses?!

  • Simone


    September 1st, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    Pretty sad that we let these people with this low self esteem do all the bullying, and yet we are the ones who end up feeling even worse about ourselves!

  • Gavin Hamilton

    Gavin Hamilton

    September 2nd, 2011 at 8:16 AM

    Its mainly because social and sexual factors bring prejudices and an already-existing bias against some of the people and when they are subjected to bullying the results are going to be even worse.It is true that members of the LGBTQ community feel the effects of bullying more than the others.

  • B.Y.


    September 2nd, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    LGBTQ people get a lot of crap from their coworkers and communities albeit via more subtle digs usually because those bullies know what they do is illegal, but schools are the worst torment of all. All instances should be treated as what they are – a hate crime. Bullies being expelled should be the minimum response if schools are reluctant to report it as such. Don’t these kids realize the Feds could be charging them?

    Those questioning their orientation and gender identity are going through a lot more stress already than the average person can even imagine, and having to face undisciplined brats daily doesn’t help. Live and let live!

  • lollygaggin


    September 3rd, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Where does this environment of bullying come frome anyway? It is so much more prevalent than it was when I was a kid, and a whole lot more vicious than it used to be too. Nowadays there is so much fuel for the fire, so many ways to get at a kid that no one had access to when we were growing up I suppose. But it does make me angry that there are those who always turn a blind eye to this kind of behavior and pretend like it is not happening. If this was happening to my own child someone would hear about it in a hurry. This is not just about kids being kids, this is serious stuff.

  • Paul Forbes

    Paul Forbes

    September 3rd, 2011 at 9:36 PM

    Do you know WHY this happens often? Because of what many interpret as Biblical condemnation. Religious parents pushing an anti-gay agenda when gays have done absolutely nothing to them but violate in their eyes a single line in a book written 5000 years ago. It’s not right they have to go through this.

    Not only do such parents turn from their own children, but they teach their straight children to do the same to any gay individual. It’s homophobia cloaked in the trappings of religion.

  • Angelica Powell

    Angelica Powell

    September 4th, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    @Paul Forbes: Leviticus was written 3400 years ago just to correct you. To also correct you from a Christian perspective, it specifically refers to the Jews and the “children of Israel” around 15 times.

    Therefore Christians who exhibit such prejudice on the grounds that it goes against the word of Christ are also violating, ironically, the same book they draw it from.

  • Lewis Briggs

    Lewis Briggs

    September 4th, 2011 at 5:40 PM

    @Paul–It’s an exaggeration to say it’s always down to religious beliefs. My grandpa never went to church a day in his life. He also hated gays and wasn’t shy about telling anybody. Where it all stemmed from I don’t know but it sure didn’t stem from any religious outrage angle. He hated churches too. Come to think of it, he didn’t like many people at all. He was a very bitter, sour old man.

  • Morgan Campbell

    Morgan Campbell

    September 6th, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    I don’t know how any parent, religious or not, can turn their back on their own flesh and blood because they aren’t straight. An addiction I can understand almost. If my daughter was a drug addict or alcoholic I don’t know how long I could continue to help her for without eventually giving up if she didn’t get help. But being gay? That’s as much as part of your makeup as your heart or your brain is.

    I would protect and stand by my child no matter what from anyone that targeted them over their sexual orientation. All I want is for them to be happy and healthy in life.

  • Sal X.

    Sal X.

    September 6th, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    Homophobia needs to be stamped out, and that’s all there is to it! I don’t care what anyone says. No-one tells me who I can and can’t love, so why should I think it’s okay to tell them?

    It’s perfectly fine to be gay, lesbian, transgender, transsexual, asexual, or bisexual. People are born that way, and what do we call it in America when you do something to someone because of how they were born? We call it a hate crime.

    I want to see those perps charged and the laws enforced more often. And none of that plea bargaining nonsense should be entertained by any judge either that disguises on paper what the motive truly was-hatred.

  • Becky Armour

    Becky Armour

    September 7th, 2011 at 8:05 PM

    I hear ya, Sal. There are kids out there that can sure be meaner than a rattlesnake. Every school has its bad apples that don’t know how to or don’t care to conduct themselves properly. Bullying is bad enough, but when they start treating their peers badly because of race, religion, gender identity, or any other “protected” aspect, they overstep the mark.

    That’s when they should be thrown before the courts as a warning to others. The victims need to know that the laws that are in place aren’t there just for show. It’s the only way they will ever get the courage up to report it.

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