Individual, Family, and Peer-Level Risk and Protective Factors to Bullying Victimization Among a Community-Based Sample of Sexual Minority Youths
METHODS: The study utilized a risk and resiliency theoretical framework and a cross-sectional, quantitative design. Structured, face-to-face interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of 125 SMY. The participants were recruited from two community-based organizations located in the Midwest. Eligibility requirements were 15-19 years old, self-identification as non-heterosexual, and currently not living in foster care. The study utilized several preexisting measures: Swearer Bullying Survey, Brief Symptom Inventory, Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, and Child and Adolescent Social Support Scale. Gender-role nonconformity and sexuality disclosure were measured by adapting items used previously in studies with SMY.
RESULTS: The majority of SMY reported being bullied in their lifetime (93.6%) and within the last school year (75.2%). Verbal bullying victimization was the most frequent type with 31.2% reporting weekly to daily experiences. Significant bivariate relationships were found between (a) child abuse and bullying victimization and (b) psychological distress and bullying victimization. Higher levels of child abuse and psychological distress were associated with higher frequencies of multiple types of bullying victimization. Gender-role nonconformity and sexuality disclosure were not significantly associated with bullying victimization. Psychological distress was found to fully mediate the relationship between child abuse and bullying victimization. This mediated relationship was conditioned upon the level of friend support. This conditional indirect effect of child abuse on bullying victimization decreased as SMY reported higher levels of friend support. Methodological limitations of the study included a non-causal research design, self-report versus teacher and peer measures of bullying victimization, and possible sample bias due to community-based recruitment.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: These findings contribute to the literature by identifying individual, family, and peer-level risk and protective factors to bullying victimization for SMY. Next steps include looking more broadly at other forms of family and peer-level violence (witnessing domestic violence, sibling aggression, neighborhood bullying) as risk factors to revictimization at school. Anti-bullying interventions need to address the potential mental healthcare needs of bullied SMY, while also implementing peer mentor programs to increase friend and classmate support.