Secondary school students who are lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) are about twice as likely to be bullied throughout their secondary school education compared to their heterosexual classmates, according to a news study.
The study was published online yesterday and is due to be in next month’s edition of Pediatrics.
But now that statistic is improving and the study from Brunel University and the University of Illinois also revealed that on average, bullying declines significantly as they get older.
The research, conducted using the data from the Department of Education’s The Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) survey, examined 8,700 of England’s adolescents and young people.
The study followed the youths over seven years and looked into how bullying rates changed as they got older and what effect it had on their emotional distress.
Overall, 187 young people who identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual tended to experience higher rates of bullying.
However, on average, bullying of the LGB youth declined significantly as they left high school.
Among lesbian and bisexual girls, 57 per cent reported being bullied at the early stages of adolescence, aged 13 or 14, compared to just 6 per cent of women aged 20 or 21.
Over the same time period the bullying declined from 52 per cent to 9 per cent among boys.
After high school, lesbian or bisexual girls were no more likely to be bullied than heterosexual girls.
Yet, among LGB boys, the statistics are not so positive, with the study showing the likelihood of being bullied increased after high school compared to straight males.
The study authors discovered LGB youth demonstrated significantly higher emotional distress levels than their heterosexual-identified peers – only some of which can be linked to bullying.
Co-author of the study, Brunel University Professor Ian Rivers, said the decline with bullying with age is to be welcomed for both heterosexual and LGB youth.
He added the data suggests bullying is much less likely to happen after 16, when education becomes selective, but he stressed it persists for a small group of young LGBs and this should never be forgotten.
But he explained the findings suggest the answer to “does it get better?” is much more nuanced and is dependent on whether one looks at absolute or relative levels of victimisation and the interplay among age, gender and sexual identity.
He said: “It seems likely that the proposed rise in the school leaving age from 16-18 years of age will have an impact upon rates of bullying, and makes it all the more important that we continue to tackle this form of prejudice-based bullying in all our schools and colleges.”