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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