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Gay youth bullied more than straight youth

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Bullying of sexual minorities begins as early as 5th grade

BOSTON (May 7, 2015) — A new study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine and led by Mark Schuster, MD, PhD, chief of General Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, shows that sexual minority youth (youth who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual) are more likely to be bullied and victimized  than their peers. 

“What really stands out is that we found that kids who are classified as sexual minorities in tenth grade are bullied and victimized more than their peers not only in tenth grade but also in fifth and seventh grades. The differences are persistent and striking.  We would think that in fifth grade, most kids don't recognize themselves or peers as sexual minorities, yet those who will later identify as sexual minorities are already being bullied more than other kids,” said Schuster, Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

The study, the only one on this topic to follow a representative sample of young people in the United States over several years, surveyed 4,268 students in Birmingham, Houston and Los Angeles in fifth grade and again in seventh and tenth grades.

Bullying is generally defined as the intentional and repeated perpetration of aggression over time by a more powerful person against a less powerful person.

“Bullying has serious short and long-term consequences, not only physical injury, but also anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress and negative school performance. Bullying targeted at sexual minorities has even more severe negative effects,” said Schuster.

Schuster and his colleagues found that girls and boys who were identified in tenth grade as sexual minorities were more likely than their peers to be bullied or victimized as early as fifth grade, with the pattern continuing into high school.

For more about the study, its findings and what parents and pediatricians can learn from it, watch this video question-and-answer interview with Dr. Schuster or read more on our blog, Thriving.

About Boston Children’s Hospital
Boston Children’s Hospital is home to the world’s largest research enterprise based at a pediatric medical center, where its discoveries have benefited both children and adults since1869. More than 1,100 scientists, including seven members of the National Academy of Sciences, 14 members of the Institute of Medicine and 14 members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute comprise Boston Children’s research community. Founded as a 20-bed hospital for children, Boston Children’s today is a 395-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care. Boston Children’s is also the primary pediatric teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.

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