Young people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) tend to experience higher rates of bullying. The study, “Developmental Trends in Peer Victimization and Emotional Distress in LGB and Heterosexual Youth,” in the March 2013 Pediatrics (published online Feb. 4), collected data from adolescents and young people in England over a seven-year period to examine how rates of bullying change as adolescents grow older, and what effect bullying has on their emotional distress. On average, bullying of LGB youth declined significantly as they left high school. For example, 57 percent of lesbian or bisexual girls reported being bullied at age 13 or 14, compared to 6 percent at age 20 or 21. Among boys, the bullying declined from 52 percent to 9 percent over the same time period. However, compared to heterosexual peers, LGB boys and girls were about twice as likely to be bullied throughout high school. After high school, lesbian or bisexual girls were no more likely to be bullied than heterosexual girls; gay or bisexual boys’ likelihood of being bullied actually increased after high school compared to heterosexual boys. The study authors found that LGB youth demonstrated significantly higher levels of emotional distress than their heterosexual-identified peers -- only some of which can be attributed to bullying. The findings suggest the answer to “does it get better?” is nuanced and depends on whether one looks at absolute or relative levels of victimization and the interplay among age, gender and sexual identity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org)