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