The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Bullying Involvement Among Sexual Minority Youth: Social Ecological Correlates of Bully, Victim, and Bully/Victim Roles

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 10:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 002B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Paul Sterzing, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Bullying victimization is a profound public health problem disproportionately affecting sexual minority youths (SMY). Little research exists that has identified the roles SMY assume in the bullying dynamic—bully only, victim only, bully/victim, and no involvement—for this population. This is an important research gap as bully/victims (i.e., youth who engage in perpetration and experience victimization) have been found to have increased mental health and academic problems in comparison to the other role types among general adolescent samples. Utilizing a community-based sample of SMY, this presentation will address the following research questions: (1) What are the estimates for bullying involvement by bully only, victim only, bully/victim, and no involvement and (2) What are the social ecological correlates (e.g., demographics, gender conformity, sexuality disclosure, psychological distress, emotional abuse, emotional neglect, social support, school climate, school problems) associated with these four bullying involvement roles?

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 criteria included 15-19 years old, self-identification as non-heterosexual, and currently not living in foster care. Physical, verbal, relational, and electronic forms of bullying perpetration and victimization were measured using the Swearer Bullying Survey. SMY were classified as bully only, victim only, or bully/victim if they had a moderate (≥monthly) to frequent (≥weekly) involvement in bullying perpetration and/or victimization. Multinominal logistic regression was utilized to estimate the social ecological correlates of the four types of bullying involvement.

RESULTS: Nationally representative estimates indicate 29.9% of general adolescents had moderate to frequent bullying involvement as bully only (13.0%), victim only (10.6%), bully/victim (6.3%), and no involvement (70.1%). In comparison, 63.2% of SMY had moderate to frequent involvement as bully only (4.8%), victim only (46.4%), bully/victim (12.0%), and no involvement (36.8%). Psychological distress, social support, school climate, sexuality disclosure, gender conformity, emotional neglect and school problems significantly predicted the type of bullying involvement (p<.05). Most strikingly, bully/victims had a significantly higher adjusted odds ratio (OR) of psychological distress in comparison to bully only (OR=14.3), victim only (OR=5.16), and no involvement (OR=10.2).

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This study is one of the first to provide estimates for the full range of bullying involvement for SMY. In comparison to national estimates, SMY appear more likely to assume the roles of victim only (>4x higher) and bully/victim (≈2x higher). Furthermore, higher levels of psychological distress predicted bullying involvement as a bully/victim in comparison to the other role types. Future research is needed to identify the unique risk and protective factors that differentiate these role types. Anti-bullying programs are needed to identify the potentially more vulnerable subgroup of bully/victims among SMY, and to address their unique mental health and academic needs.