Study Explores Interventions for Stigma-Based Bullying

A 12-year-old child sitting in a wheel chair watching other kids getting together in the park while he is left behind.Bullying based on stigma or discrimination can be especially harmful. Bullies may target a child for their weight, religion, disability, or other traits.  A Developmental Review study says anti-bullying programs are unevenly distributed among sociological categories. The authors say more research on interventions might reduce bullying among specific groups.

Preventing Stigma-Based Bullying

The study screened 8,240 articles published between 2000 and 2015. It included 22 studies addressing 21 different interventions for discriminatory bullying. The study found the number of stigma-based bullying interventions has increased with time. Between 2000 and 2007, only six such programs appeared in peer-reviewed journals. Between 2008 and 2015, researchers published 16 interventions.

This data suggests investigators are taking the problem more seriously. However, the study found an uneven distribution of programs. Over the last 15 years, programs addressing LGBTQ+ issues have grown more common. Yet the study’s authors located only two programs that directly addressed racism.

Bystander intervention and other generalized anti-bullying approaches have proven successful. Yet programs that target stereotypes might be necessary to fight discriminatory bullying. According to the study authors, they may also help prevent gun violence at schools. Many school shooters have a history of gender-based harassment and/or racial prejudice. Addressing discrimination early on may prevent behaviors from escalating.

Bullying and Mental Health

While some adults treat bullying as a rite of passage, research points to the long-lasting damage the experience can cause. A 2015 study found bullied children were more likely to experience anxiety and depression than survivors of childhood abuse. Research published in 2014 suggests the effects of bullying may extend into adulthood.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids who bully are more likely to have:

Bullying prevalence estimates vary. The 2015 Youth Behavior Risk Survey found 20% of high schoolers were bullied at school during the previous year. In the same survey, 16% of students said they had been cyberbullied.


  1. Bullying based on stigma has especially damaging effects. (2018, March 8). ScienceDaily. Retrieved from
  2. Earnshaw, V. A., Reisner, S. L., Menino, D. D., Poteat, V. P., Bogart, L. M., Barnes, T. N., & Schuster, M. A. (2018). Stigma-based bullying interventions: A systematic review. Developmental Review. Retrieved from
  3. Prevent bullying. (2017, October 10). Retrieved from

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