Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Chair and Committee
Sexual minority youths: SMY) suffer higher rates of bullying victimization and related mental health and academic problems compared to their heterosexual peers. At present, little research has investigated the modifiable and non-modifiable risk and protective factors that are associated with lower frequencies of bullying victimization and victim distress for SMY. This study utilized a risk and resilience theoretical framework and addressed the following research questions among a community-based sample of SMY: 1) What are the associations between risk and protective factors and the frequencies of total and four types: i.e., verbal, relational, electronic, and physical) of bullying victimization? 2) What are the associations between the frequencies of total and four types of bullying victimization and mental health problems and academic outcomes? and 3) To what extent do modifiable risk and protective factors: MRPF) moderate the association between total bullying victimization and mental health problems and academic outcomes?
A cross-sectional, quantitative design was utilized for this study. Structured, face-to-face interviews were conducted with SMY: N = 125) aged 15 to 19 years old and recruited from two Midwest, community-based organizations. Bivariate analyses were performed to identify associations between: 1) risk and protective factors and bullying victimization: total and type) and: 2) bullying victimization: total and type) and mental health problems and academic outcomes. Multiple regression analyses were performed to explore the potential moderating influence of MRPF on the relationship between total bullying victimization and mental health problems and academic outcomes.
For research question 1, SMY who reported higher levels of classmate support and positive school climate experienced significantly lower frequencies of bullying victimization. Older SMY reported significantly lower levels of physical and verbal bullying victimization than their younger counterparts. Similarly, African American and Caucasian SMY reported lower levels of physical and verbal bullying victimization compared to their Hispanic, Native American, and multiracial counterparts. Emotional, physical, and sexual child abuse were identified as significant risk factors for bullying victimization.
For research question 2, SMY who experienced higher frequencies of bullying victimization: total and type) reported significantly higher levels of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression. Further, those who experienced higher frequencies of bullying victimization: total and type) had significantly higher odds of having seriously considered suicide, attempted suicide, and experienced disciplinary actions in school. SMY who reported higher frequencies of bullying victimization also had significantly lower grade performance. Overall, physical bullying victimization had the strongest associations with mental health problems and academic outcomes, while electronic bullying victimization consistently had the weakest associations.
For research question 3, classmate support was found to be a significant moderator of total bullying victimization and grade performance, such that SMY with higher levels of classmate support experienced less of a decline in grades as the frequency of total bullying victimization increased compared to SMY with lower levels of classmate support. Last, parent support was found to be a significant moderator of total bullying victimization and psychological distress. High levels of parent support had a protective effect on psychological distress only at a low frequency of total bullying victimization. Parent support appeared to be unable to protect SMY from poorer psychological distress as the frequency of total bullying victimization increased.
This study is one of the first to examine the protective factors present in the lives of SMY and contributes to the bullying literature for SMY by identifying the modifiable and non-modifiable risk and protective factors that may be used to inform multi-level, anti-bullying interventions. Individual-level intervention components may include provision or referral to mental health services to address the high levels of mental health problems and histories of child abuse and neglect often present in the lives of SMY. In addition, peer-level intervention components may include the adoption of peer mentoring programs that foster classmate support and increase the rates at which classmates intervene to stop incidents of bullying victimization at school. Last, school-level intervention components may include strategies that promote positive school climates for SMY through the adoption of anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies that provide specific protections for sexual minority students, teachers, and staff.
Sterzing, Paul, "Risk and Protective Factors for Bullying Victimization among Sexual Minority Youths" (2012). All Theses and Dissertations (ETDs). 983.