Does it 'get better' for bullied gay or bisexual youth?
February 5th, 2013
11:25 AM ET

Does it 'get better' for bullied gay or bisexual youth?

The answer to that question depends on how you look at it, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adolescents are victims of bullying twice as often as their heterosexual peers. But research finds that the overall incidence decreases after high school, particularly among girls. However, the scars of emotional distress remain significantly higher in LGB youth.

"What we see is, slightly over half of LGB teens are bullied when they're ages 13 to 14, and then when they're ages 19 to 20, the rates of bullying are fewer than 10 percent," said study author Joseph Robinson from the Department of Educational Psychology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Robinson says these numbers support the message of the "It Gets Better Project."  The project features user-created videos and was designed to remind lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender teenagers "the levels of happiness, potential and positivity their lives will reach - if they can just get through their teen years," according to its website.

"These data provide strong empirical support that it does get better," Robinson said. "We've been hearing ... this message of hope.  These data are consistent."

Researchers studied 4,135 students in England who were in year 9 (equal to eighth grade in the United States) in 2004– half boys and half girls. All were white and British. Of the total group, 4.5% identified themselves as LGB.  Participants were interviewed annually through 2010.

At the start, researchers surveyed parents about whether their child was called names.

Throughout the study, the students answered questions about being bullied through name-calling, threats of physical violence against them or actual physical violence within the year prior. They also reported if they felt unhappy, depressed or worthless.

The numbers of LGB youth who reported being victim to bullying significantly dropped overall. However, the decrease was not seen when gay/bisexual boys were compared to heterosexual boys. In fact, gay/bisexual males were more than four times as likely to report bullying at the end of the study, when the participants were ages 19 to 20.

"We need to better understand why (relative) rates of bullying get worse for gay/bisexual males after high school," Robinson said.

One year after high school ended, LGB youth had significantly more emotional distress than their heterosexual peers.

Robinson says the study suggests a need to focus on reducing bullying.

"Bullying and emotional distress during high school predict about half of the LGB-straight disparity in emotional distress after high school, suggesting that we may be able to reduce that disparity by reducing bullying during high school and treating earlier emotional distress," he said.

The study authors note the data is self-reported and the results may not generalize to other countries, even though there was no reason to suspect different results between the United Kingdom and the United States.

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Huge Mustache

    I think the whole "it gets better" BS is BS. It says that you just have to accept being bullied. Stand-up and fight for your rights. Call the cops! Do what is needed to make it stop. Hate crimes are hate crimes.

    February 9, 2013 at 22:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anon

      It's easy to say that you should do "whatever it takes" to stop bullying. I was bullied as a child, and my parents sat me down every night and responded to each comment that I reported to them. If someone said I was ugly, they would point out the ways that I was pretty; if they made fun of my racial heritage, they taught me about my heritage so I could be proud of it, etc. Then, they would call the parents of the bullies, talk to the teacher, and talk to the principal if the bullying was at that point. It got so bad that they had me transferred mid-year, and shortly after, the group of bullies beat up a girl for calling them out.

      My parents taught me to never fight back, but to walk away and find an adult; they taught me that they, as my parents, would protect me at all costs, and that as long as I was in a teacher's presence the bullies would have to leave me alone, or bully me in front of the teacher (thus landing themselves in trouble). My parents taught me that it gets better–and it did. The other girl who was physically harmed was taught to defend herself and others by standing up to bullies. Standing up to a bully doesn't work too well when you're alone in a bathroom and get your head bashed in on a sink, because there are five bullies and one of you. Standing up and fighting also doesn't work when you're the smallest person in your class (as I was). Seeking help from authority figures DOES work, and knowing that it gets better does get you through the depression of being bullied. But, I'm not gay, I was bullied because of my size, lack of discernible athletic ability, heritage, and overall nerdiness.

      February 18, 2013 at 16:30 | Report abuse |
    • sgreco

      the IGB campaign is not telling kids to accept being bullied. Its telling kids that if they feel suicidal, they should hang in there, because they wont always feel like this. Its easy to feel like you'll feel this way forever when you're young. People who have been bullied and then grew up into adults know that it gets better, you wont feel this way anymore, you will have great people and things in your life -dont throw it all away.

      February 26, 2013 at 14:11 | Report abuse |
    • hehe

      interesting especially if the project is not personally helping or reaching an individual that is being bullied directly..

      March 7, 2013 at 00:40 | Report abuse |
    • cleareye1

      I heard of a teacher that when told of bullying he confronted the bully with what he would be facing if it continued. The teacher also taught wrestling and told the bully he would be put onto the mat with a bigger student who did not agree with bullying as he had learned self confidence through his sport. Most of the bullies decided to do something else to cover their inadequacies.

      October 21, 2013 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
  2. Ana

    If you've seen the suicide rates amongst gay teens, it's surprising you would call the campaign BS.
    I think every possible campaign should be out there to create hope for kids who feel there is none.

    February 14, 2013 at 02:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hehe

      does charity begin at home?

      March 7, 2013 at 00:41 | Report abuse |
  3. irony

    it's hard to take this movement seriously especially when gay people discriminate in their adulthood...

    March 7, 2013 at 00:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ty'shon

    i been bully ever since i stared school an aint nobody did nothing abt it an now i'm in the 9 grade they trying to hold me back because of the day's i miss half of thim day's i miss cause i just did't feel like goin to get bully can someone please help me i don't want to be back in the 9 grade again

    April 10, 2013 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. mudfoot

    How come adult gays are allowed to bully people and call them bigots but when the shoe is on the other foot the cry? I find these gay bullies disgusting low life cretins. They want special treatment. If you are gay that"s your business but that gives you no right to bully people and the same applies to straight folks..

    October 17, 2013 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. I am proud to be me.

    I was bullied all through my school career. Punched, slapped, pinched, tripped, pushed, the bullies even took a stapler to my back and arms, used jumped ropes for lashings...it was endless. If I fought back the teachers punished me, sent me to the Principal and then made me sit in front of their desk for rest of the year where the whole class would discuss how I was a digusting f*ggot, throw things and send me notes with further threats of violence if I told anyone. I was 10. Look at your 10 year old, with the mind and coping abilities of a 10 year old and tell me that is fair and to "toughen" up. I didn't want to commit suicide and never tried it either but I did believe, at that time, I was a mistake and wished I was dead...at 10 years old. Continual praying didn't help either...it just distanced myself from God, I thought He didn't care either. I was a child and didn't understand why I was different, I didn't fully understand what a f*ggot was or what they did that was so bad to make everyone actively hate me. I couldn't tell my family because if being a f*ggot was as bad as I heard I was sure they would be humiliated and send me away. The bullying continued throughout high school – of course the threats grew more and more violent and I was concerned of being raped by the boys in the locker room. So what was I left with as an adult? Self esteem issues, anger, sadness and a lack of self-confidence in all things that I tried to accomplish as an adult. I was continually victimized for other reasons but the trap was already set at 10 years old. The trap was learned survival behavior that lent itself to victimization. In my late 20s I learned to take control of my life. Took it back from the bullies I had left behind both at school and on my job. Even after all of that I still wouldn't want to be straight, it's as foreign to me as straight people feel about being gay. I'm in my 40s now and my heart breaks when I hear about bullying. While schools are discussing what is "appropriate" sex ed and acceptable behavior another bullied child is losing future potential by the minute. Gay isn't bad and isn't immoral and it should never be used as a negative term. There are gay children and gay children grow into gay adults. Prudes and conservatives and religious zealots have to accept that gays are part of our supposedly free democracy. Gays are now living under gay Jim Crow laws...it's disgusting. My advice to parents would be to love your gay children. Celebrate with them their first crush, their first kiss, their first date and console them when their heart is broken just as you would your straight child. None of my firsts were celebrated. In time, my parents supported me but I was in my 20s and trying to be as independent as I could – it wasn't the same but it was appreciated. My mother even tried to be a matchmaker for me...which I thought was hilarious. Take action now to stop bullying before we lose another beautiful child.

    October 17, 2013 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cleareye1

      Thank you for posting.

      October 21, 2013 at 16:08 | Report abuse |
  7. Haha

    If you are in high school especially in rural or even suburban areas that are not very accepting of people that are different it is a bad idea–keep it to yourself or just a small group of trusted people until college. Revealing it to the world at that stage will just cause problems. As most people get older they are more accepting of people that are different.

    Often I think that the people that bully kids to death regret it, but probably like 10-15 years later when it's too late.

    October 19, 2013 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ramiro Laplace

    Fedora Hats for Men


    September 17, 2016 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Dominique Nockels

    Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.


    January 8, 2021 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Hildegarde Couch

    I intended to post you that little bit of word to be able to give many thanks the moment again on your pleasing advice you have contributed at this time. It was simply shockingly generous with you in giving openly what numerous people would've offered for sale as an electronic book to end up making some dough for themselves, most importantly seeing that you might have tried it in case you wanted. These tactics as well acted to be the great way to fully grasp other people have the identical desire similar to my personal own to know great deal more with reference to this problem. I am certain there are some more fun times up front for many who discover your blog.


    January 26, 2021 at 01:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Buy Elite Proxy

    I think that is among the such a lot important info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The web site taste is ideal, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers


    January 27, 2021 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Boost Youtube Likes

    thank you for sharing with us, I conceive this website really stands out : D.


    February 2, 2021 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. boat cleaning conroe

    417261 566910A person necessarily lend a hand to make severely posts Id state. This really is the quite 1st time I frequented your web page and to this point? I surprised with the analysis you created to make this certain submit extraordinary. Magnificent procedure! 606021

    February 24, 2021 at 18:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. ClarkTauts

    4h5p0 axsyb fkq8

    February 28, 2021 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Natacha Defosset

    Greetings from Los angeles! I'm bored to death at work so I decided to browse your site on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you provide here and can't wait to take a look when I get home. I'm shocked at how fast your blog loaded on my phone .. I'm not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, awesome blog!


    March 1, 2021 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. https://ask.fm

    Real clean site, thanks for this post.

    Here is my blog post – exams (https://ask.fm)

    March 12, 2021 at 05:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Cleotilde Razzano

    Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be ok. I'm undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.


    March 21, 2021 at 02:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. http://nutshellurl.com/

    Real good information can be found on web site.

    My homepage :: answer; http://nutshellurl.com/,

    March 24, 2021 at 05:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Tyree Dodoo

    The other day, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a 40 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!


    March 26, 2021 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Research

    222352 64064not everyone would want a nose job but my girlfriend actually needs some rhinoplasty coz her nose is kind of crooked- 796946

    March 27, 2021 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Lavern Borror

    This is a topic that is close to my heart... Take care! Where are your contact details though?


    March 29, 2021 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. jakarta.sangsanguniv.com

    If some one wants expert view on the topic of running a blog after that i advise him/her to pay a visit this web site, Keep up the nice job.

    Visit my homepage – 2021 (jakarta.sangsanguniv.com)

    April 1, 2021 at 22:41 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.