PITTSBURGH — When compared with their heterosexual peers, sexual-minority youth score lower on key indicators of positive youth development and those disparities may be due in part to more bullying of these adolescents, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers have found.
The findings, funded partly by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are published online and scheduled for an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
“This research quantifies how bullying hinders sexual-minority youths’ access to the essential building blocks of health and well-being,” said lead author Robert W.S. Coulter, M.P.H., a doctoral student in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. “Anti-bullying policies at schools are necessary but insufficient. Multifaceted interventions in all arenas, including schools, families and communities, should focus on building more accepting and supportive environments for sexual-minority youth.”
Coulter and his colleagues used data from a survey of 1,870 adolescents at U.S. schools and after-school programs in 45 states that measured positive youth development using the “Five Cs” model, which assesses competence, confidence, connection, character and caring/compassion. Higher levels of the Five Cs are associated with positive contributions to society, and lower levels are linked to myriad risky behaviors, including cigarette smoking, alcohol use and younger sexual initiation.
The survey also asked participants whether they had been bullied several times in the past several months. Of the participants, 127 (6.8 percent) were identified as sexual-minority youth, meaning they reported having both-gender attractions or same-gender attractions only. Nearly 24 percent of them reported being a victim of bullying, compared with 12 percent of the heterosexual youths.