Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Bullying Experiences among Sexual Minority Youths in England: The Nature, Prevalence and Association with Life Satisfaction

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Bullying Experiences among Sexual Minority Youths in England: The Nature, Prevalence and Association with Life Satisfaction

Article excerpt

Introduction

The detrimental effects of bullying, intentionally harmful and repetitive forms of aggression which involves an imbalance of power, are well documented. For example previous studies have shown that those who experience bullying in childhood have increased mental health problems, including increased levels of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and self-harm (Arseneault, Bowes, & Shakoor, 2010) as well as poorer health (Nansel et al., 2001). This relationship has als o been found to persist into ear ly a nd late a dulthood (Olweus, 1993; Takizawa, Maughan, & Arseneault, 2014). These pervasive negative associations highlight the importance of understanding who is at risk of being bullied. Recent research has shown that those from minority groups are at a greater risk, for example those with special education needs (e.g. Chatzitheochari, 2015), ethnic minorities (e.g. Durkin et al., 2012) and sexual minorities (e.g. Fedewa & Ahn, 2011).

This paper addr esses t he question of whether individua ls from sexua l minorities are more or less likely to experience being bullied throughout their teenage years and into early adulthood in England. To our knowledge there is little research examining sexual orientation and victimization in England which uses longitudinal data. As a result, this provides an exciting opportunity to explore the social experiences of this minority group and how these experiences vary over time. This contributes to the existing literature by describing the risk to young people over their teenage years and identifies the effect of experiencing bullying as well as the critical periods to focus interventions and support. The specific aims of this paper are to identify the association between sexual identity and bullying, including severity, form of bullying and prior experiences of bullying. The moderating role of sexual identity on the link between bulling experiences and life satisfaction at age 20 is also explored.

Review of Literature

Bullying is defined as repeated exposure to conduct which is intended to cause discomfort or injury upon another person (Olweus, 1993). More specifically, the conduct involves a power imbalance between the bully and the victim (Rigby, 2002). T her e is a lar ge body of research which docu ments the relationship between being bullied and negative health outcomes, academic outcomes, suicidal ideation and increased risk behaviors (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011; Hinduja & Patchin, 2010; Turner et al., 2013). Furthermore evidence from around the world indicates that sexual minority youth (i.e. lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) disproportionately experience bullying victimization (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011) and a number of studies document the high prevalence of school-based harassment among sexual minority youth (O'Shaughnessy et al., 2004; Kosciw et al., 2012; Birkett, Espelage, & Koenig, 2009). The context in which the bullying in early adulthood occurs may also vary. Previous research has shown that although rates of being bullied reduce as people age, bullying in early adulthood can occur at work or at university/college by peers rather than by older colleagues or people in positions of authority (Rivers, 2011). T he a i m of t he current paper is to focus on victimiza tion a nd harassment of young LGB adults, the exposure and effect as well as their experiences during compulsory schooling. Few previous studies in England have explored bullying experiences in early adulthood, and this paper seeks to address this gap.

One of the first studies to look into the lives and experiences of young LGB people took place in the UK (Warren, 1984). The aim of this study was to identify the pressures that LGB teenagers face in schools and in what ways they were discriminated against. Their study was informative regarding the difficulties these young people face, but the data was collected using a small sa mple which la cked a comparison gr oup. …

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