METHODS: Studies were included if they met the following inclusion criteria: (1) measured bullying victimization, (2) sampled non-heterosexual youths, (3) utilized a quantitative design, and (4) published in a peer-reviewed journal between 1985-2011. Non-empirical, qualitative, or retrospective studies were excluded from the review. Academic Search Premier, ERIC, LGBT Life, PsychINFO, PubMed, and ScienceDirect were searched using the following key words: “bully”, “bullying”, “harassment”, “victimization”, “lesbian”, “gay”, “bisexual”, “transgender”, and “sexual minority”. Eighteen articles were included in the final review.
RESULTS: Four broad risk and protective factors were significantly associated with differential rates of bullying victimization and related mental health and academic problems: (1) sexuality disclosure, (2) gender-role nonconformity, (3) school environment, and (4) family support. Bullying victimization was significantly associated with greater sexuality disclosure and gender-role nonconformity. Having a Gay-Straight Alliance at school was associated with lower levels of bullying victimization. Higher levels of family support were significantly associated with fewer suicidal behaviors for SMY who experienced verbal forms of bullying victimization. Bullying victimization was significantly associated with mental health and academic problems: (1) higher rates of depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts, (2) higher drop-out and truancy rates, and (3) lower levels of academic aspirations. Methodological limitations included non-causal research designs, lack of explicit theory informing hypothesis selection, and lack of multiple informants. Methodological strengths included the use of standardized measures and a trend in the use of advanced statistical techniques and school-based samples.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: Prior research has identified associations between bullying victimization, mental health, and academic problems, including risk and protective factors that provide important points of intervention. Next steps include addressing substantive gaps and methodological limitations. Future studies need to investigate the risk and protective factors—coping skills, attributional styles, family abuse and neglect, friendship quality—that have been identified in the general adolescent bullying literature but remain untested with sexual minority youth samples. To address problems with shared method variance, future bullying studies require multiple informants—self, parent, peer, teacher—to accurately measure the prevalence of bullying victimization and related problems among SMY. Multiple informants are standard practice in the general adolescent bullying literature but were not used by studies in this review.