Fourteen-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn, 15-year-old Jadin Bell and 18-year-old Tyler Clementi were all teenagers who committed suicide after being bullied for being gay. There have been many similar stories reported around the country, but until now, little research has existed to help understand the backdrop to tragic outcomes like these.
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, who is also the William Berenberg Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, sheds light on the bullying and victimization experiences of sexual minority youth (that is, youth who are lesbian, gay or bisexual) from elementary school to high school. Bullying is generally defined as the intentional and repeated perpetration of aggression over time by a more powerful person against a less powerful person. 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.
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, and this pattern continued into high school.
We sat down with Dr. Schuster to discuss this important study and its implications.
By S. Bryn Austin, ScD, director of Fellowship Research Training in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital
This past Saturday was Boston’s 42nd annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride parade. As I stood among the jubilant throngs, cheering on the joyfully endless stream of colorful marchers, cyclists, roller skaters and floats, I was struck by how much we have to be proud of here in Massachusetts. And I mean all of us, not just the LGBT community.
In 2004, Massachusetts was the first state to legally recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry. Twenty years ago, we were the first state to establish—by executive order from then-Governor William Weld—Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA), which are vital school-based support groups for teens. Across the state, we have many outstanding community-based organizations providing valuable resources for LGBT youth. And right here at Boston Children’s Hospital, we’re a national leader in health care and research for LGBT youth.
Every milestone achieved on the path toward equality and inclusion is a direct result of the compassion and dedication of our whole community working together, gay and straight, transgender and nontransgender. We can all share in the season of pride. …
Other children’s health stories we’ve been reading:
- The FDA recently approved the first drug designed to treat infantile spasms. Infants suffering from the disorder can have as many as 100 seizures per episode and multiple episodes a day.
- Mom Daily talks about a new study, which reveals that there’s no difference between children of same-sex couples and children of heterosexual parents. Do you think this will help same-sex parents adopt?
- At ParentDish, Julia Halewicz discusses the debate between parents and school administrators about autistic children bringing service dogs to school. Parents claim the dogs help keep their children calm and safe, while school officials challenge the medical necessity of these dogs.