The Effects of Bias-Based Bullying

Bullying is an increasing problem in our culture. What used to be a form of coercion and intimidation used mostly by young adults has spiraled into a national epidemic. The internet has been the vehicle for many highly publicized cases of cyber-bullying, and even children in preschool and kindergarten have reported instances of bullying. Acts of bullying have been attributed to racial and ethnic differences, prejudice, religious discrimination, and sexual minority intolerance, among other reasons. Understanding the motivation behind bullying, and the damaging effects of this behavior, could help educators and lawmakers address this issue with more precision in the future. To try to better determine what reasons people cite for bullying, Stephen T. Russell, of the Division of Family Studies and Human Development at the University of Arizona, recently analyzed data from two longitudinal youth studies, the Dane County Youth Assessment (DCYA) and the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS).

Russell and his colleagues looked at the health risks associated with bias and nonbiased bullying in the sampling of youth. The teens reported various factors related to bullying behavior that had occurred in the prior year, such as frequency, basis of bullying, type of bullying, and sexual or physical harassment bullying. Additionally, they were asked about their drug or alcohol use and mental health. Russell found that roughly 12% of the youth had been bullied based on their sexual preference, and over 15% had been bullied based on race. Fewer participants reported religion or disability biased bullying.

Mental health problems were elevated in the participants who reported bias-based bullying. Additionally, those who were bullied based on bias were also more likely to be tardy or absent from school and were at increased risk for being threatened while in school. Russell believes that these results demonstrate that teens and children who are victims of bias-based bullying are more vulnerable to negative health consequences. Although there has been extensive research on bullying in general in the past few years, these findings highlight the need for more exploration of the effects of bias-based bullying in American youth. Russell added, “Given the clear health risks associated with bias-based harassment, laws and policies should focus not only on harassing behavior but also on the bias and prejudice that motivate such behavior.”

Russell, S. T., Sinclair,  K. O., Poteat, P. V., Koenig, B. W. Adolescent health and harassment based on discriminatory bias. American Journal of Public Health 102.3 (2012): 493-95. Print.

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  • Larry


    April 2nd, 2012 at 3:24 PM

    Please tell me that I am not the only person who reads something like this and is thankful that my own children are grown and married and don’t have to deal with this anymore?

    On the other hand, what is going to happen to my own grandchildren? Do they stand a chance of being bullied for something that they will have no control over? We really have to do better at getting a handle on this situation before more young people’s lives are ruined as a result.

  • felix


    April 3rd, 2012 at 4:16 AM

    As one of the only hispanic kids in a mostly white school, I was actively bullied for most of my middle school and high school career. I would like to say that it did not bother me, but I would seriously be lying. They made me question my culture, my family, and who I am at the core. It was never anything physical, but all emotional and mental, making me come to hate who I was. I have worked hard to tell myself now that what they said did not matter, but because I can still remember everything so vividly, then I guess it mattered more than I admitted to it.

  • Jacob


    April 3rd, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    Bullies need no invitation.Anybody different from them is not worth being respected and need to be subjected to their disgusting insults/other things.They are just insecure deep down inside seeing someone who is different from their own selves!

  • Ya'shina


    April 4th, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    I was bullied for being a large girl, always heavy and overweight, was not til I got to college that I was able to find mjy niche and find friends who liked me for me.

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