Bullying among teens is a major social problem in the United States. It results in emotional trauma—and sometime even death—to its victims. Now, a new study reports another impact of bullying: increased sexual risk taking among teens being bullied as well as those that do the bullying. The study was published online on November 11 by researchers affiliated with Boston University, the University of Illinois, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The researchers note that the psychological and educational impact of bullying have been explored extensively; however, no studies have evaluated a possible link between bullying and sexual risk-taking behaviors among teens. This situation has occurred despite evidence that some teen may become involved in sexual risk taking emerges in response to being bullied. Thus, they felt that associations for both heterosexual teens and those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning should be analyzed. Therefore, they conducted a study to evaluated associations among bullying, other victimization forms, and sexual risk-taking behaviors among adolescents; in addition, they paid particular attention to sexual orientation.
The study group comprised 8,687 high school students who completed the Dane County Youth Survey, which was a countywide survey administered high school students from 24 schools. The subjects were asked questions about their bullying involvement and sexual risk-taking behaviors (i.e., engaging in casual sex and having sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs). The researchers found that their results indicated that both bullies and bully-victims were more likely to engage in casual sex and sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They subjected the results to statistical analysis and found that they help up even after controlling for demographic characteristics and victimization exposures for not only heterosexual teens but also for those with other sexual orientations.
The authors concluded that both bullies and bully victims engaged in more sexual risk-taking behaviors; however, the patterns of association varied by sexual orientation. They recommended that bullying prevention programs and programs aimed at reducing unhealthy sexual practices should consider a broader stress and coping perspective. In addition, they recommended that these programs should take into consideration the possible link between the stress of bullying involvement and inappropriate coping responses.