Research Blog > Intersections of GLB Victimization and Violence
In 2012, a 17-year-old student in Indiana took drastic measures against allegedly homophobic peers and hostile school administrators – he brought a stun gun to school and, when threatened, pointed it at the ceiling. The young man was arrested and faces expulsion for discharging a weapon at school .
While an extreme example, this story raises questions about the relationship between victimization and violence involvement for LGBT youth. Gay, lesbian, or bisexual (GLB) youth* consistently report higher rates of victimization at school than their heterosexual peers. In a limited number of studies, GLB youth have also reported higher levels of violence involvement, like carrying weapons and fighting [2, 3]. Some researchers have argued that this may be linked to self-defense .
In this post, we examine the relationship between GLB victimization and violence involvement in schools using the 2011 Chicago Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). This representative dataset includes 954 males and 941 females, who ranged from 12 to 18 years old (M=15.8, SD=1.3). Nearly 8% described themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Analyses were conducted on weighed data, and comes from research in progress conducted by Clifford, A., & Birkett, M.
GLB students and victimization
Consistent with previous research (including the IMPACT White Paper), GLB students were more likely to report being bullied in the past 12 months than heterosexual students (16.7% vs. 12.3%, p<.001). Additionally, more than one-fifth (22.6%) of GLB students reported harassment for being perceived as LGBT in the past 12 months, compared to 5.5% of heterosexual students.
GLB students and violence involvement
In this sample, GLB students were more likely than their heterosexual peers to report engaging in both fighting and carrying a weapon, the two forms of violence involvement studied. GLB students were more likely to report carrying a weapon in the last 30 days (25% vs. 15.2%, p=<.001) and more likely to report fighting in the last 12 months (49.4% vs. 37.8%, p=<.001) than their heterosexual peers.
The intersection of victimization and violence
Students were grouped based on their experiences of bulling or harassment to examine the relation between victimization and violence involvement. The results demonstrated that heterosexual and GLB students who reported experiencing any victimization were more likely to be involved in violence than those who reported no victimization. Students who reported having been bullied were 1.3 times more likely to report fighting in the past 12 months than their non-bullied counterparts (GLB youth: 57.3% vs. 46.4%, p<.001; heterosexual youth: 49.1% vs. 35.8%, p<.001).
While preliminary, these results indicate that victimization is an important factor in understanding violence-related behaviors for all youth, including GLB youth. School policies tend to focus on individual behaviors, like fighting, rather than on unwelcoming or hostile school environments that may contribute to victimization and violence [4, 5]. As IMPACT researchers have previously noted, a more contextual, ecological approach is needed in order to better address bullying and victimization.
*Many school-based samples do not ask questions regarding transgender individuals or gender identity. This blog uses the terms LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) and GLB (gay, lesbian, bisexual) as appropriate in referring to the study in question.
1. CNN News Wire. (2012, May 7). Indiana mom sends son to school with stun gun to confront bullies. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/07/us/indiana-bullied-teen
2. Garofalo, R., et al (1998). The Association Between Health Risk Behaviors and Sexual Orientation Among a School-based Sample of Adolescents. Pediatrics. 101(5)895-902;
3. Durant, R.H., Krowchuk, D.P., and S.H. Sinal (1998). Victimization, use of violence, and drug use at school among male adolescents who engage in same-sex sexual behaviors. Pediatrics. 133 (1), 113-118.
4. Robinson, J.P., & D.E. Espelage (2012). Bullying explains only part of LGBTQ-Heterosexual Risk Disparities. Educational Researcher. 41(8), 309-319.
5. American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force (2008). Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in the Schools. American Psychologist. 63(9), 852-862.