- Espelage and Swearer (2003)
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are at particular risk for all forms of bullying. In 2001, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network conducted the National School Climate Survey — the only national survey to document the experiences of LGBT youth in U.S. high schools. A total of 904 LGBT youth from 48 states and the District of Columbia completed the survey. The vast majority of respondents (84.3%) reported that they frequently or often hear homophobic remarks (e.g., words such as " faggot," " dyke," or " queer" ). Many further reported experiencing some form of harassment or violence, which broke down in the following manner:
- 83.2% reported being verbally harassed (e.g., name calling, threats) because of their sexual orientation
- 65.4% reported being sexually harassed (e.g., being the target of suggestive comments, being touched inappropriately)
- 74.2% of lesbian and bisexual young women reported being sexually harassed
- 73.7% of transgender students reported being sexually harassed
- 48.3% of LGBT students of color reported being verbally harassed because of both their sexual orientation and their race/ethnicity
- 41.9% reported being physically harassed (e.g., shoved or pushed) because of their sexual orientation
- 21.1% reported being physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked, injured with a weapon) because of their sexual orientation
Studies frequently reveal that boys bully and are bullied more often than girls. For example, according to the NICHD survey, 26 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls were moderate to frequent bullies. A similar pattern emerged with respect to victimization, with 21 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls reporting that they were moderate to frequent victims of bullies. These findings, however, may be due — at least in part — to the manner in which bullying is defined and/or identified by researchers. Bullying by girls tends to be more subtle and, as a result, more difficult to detect than bullying by boys. According to Olweus, boys are three to four times more likely than girls to use physical aggression when bullying others.
"Historically, many studies on aggression have excluded girls from the sample (Crick & Rose, 2001) and have defined aggression as overtly physical or verbal, but have failed to consider more subtle, covert forms."
- Espelage and Swearer (2003)
While male bullies certainly use other tactics as well (e.g., verbal bullying, telling lies, and spreading rumors), the tendency toward physical aggression is a critical difference between boys and girls. Female bullies tend to engage in verbal bullying, such as direct teasing and indirect rumor-spreading, as well as social ostracism/isolation — but they rarely use physical tactics. Perhaps boys more than girls are able to label — and thus report — their experiences as bullying because of the direct and physical nature of the bullying incidents in which they are involved (both as bullies and as victims).
A Final Note About These Categories
Tensions related to race/ethnicity, gender, and gender/sexual identity among students often lead to a wide range of behaviors that can be classified as bullying. For example, in the 9th Biennial California Student Survey, conducted with 8,238 students in grades 7, 9, and 11, nearly one-fourth of the students reported having been bullied or harassed at school at least once because of their race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability status. Race/ethnicity was the most frequently cited reason for being victimized (14%).
Bullying is a highly sensitive issue to address in the school setting. It becomes even more challenging as you come to realize that it is connected to other sensitive issues associated with race/ethnicity, gender, and gender/sexual identity. In order to truly understand and address the problem of bullying among students, school personnel need to appreciate the interconnectedness of these important issues. For example, many state and federal laws prohibit discrimination and harassment based on these and other identity characteristics. When a bully targets a victim specifically because of race/ethnicity, gender, or gender/sexual identity, the assault may actually be considered a hate crime.
Source: Adapted from Exploring the Nature and Prevention of Bullying
Page last modified by Department of Education on January 25, 2010
Page last modified or reviewed by At Health on September 29, 2010