Research from a new study has found that homophobia among the youth tends to increase when issues surrounding LGBT rights are publicly debated.
According to a recent study published in the journal, Pediatrics, between 2001 and 2014 rates of homophobic bullying before and after the vote on Proposition 8, which voters approved in 2008 but a federal court ruled unconstitutional in 2010, “promulgated stigma” against homosexuals. Their findings showed that in the 2008 and 2009 academic year, rates of homophobic bullying went up before the vote on Prop 8. Following the vote, bullying went down year after year.
The students were asked questions about being bullied due to their race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, or sexuality. Some of the questions the students were asked included,
“During the past 12 months, how many times on school property were you harassed or bullied because you are gay or lesbian (or someone thought you were)?”
They found that rates on students being bullied because of their race, ethnicity, religion or gender, and not because of their sexual orientation, dropped during 2008 and 2009.
The data also revealed that schools with a gay-straight alliance initiative were less likely to see increases in homophobic bullying when compared to institutions that lacked LGBT inclusive programs.
“This research provides some of the first empirical evidence that public campaigns that promote stigma may confer risk for bias-based bullying among youth,” the authors wrote.
Stephen Russell, senior author of the study and chair of the Human Development and Family Sciences Department at the University of Texas at Austin, commented on the findings.
“Policies and campaigns related to Black Lives Matter, bathroom bills, immigration—these can be concerning in how they affect the health and well-being of youth. The public health consequences of these very contentious and media-driven discussions are more important than we knew,” he said.
Research found that more children who identified as gay reported homophobic bullying.
“The data are telling us that straight kids are getting bullied for this, too,” said Russell. “It’s all about what the bullies perceive.”
Mark Hatzenbuehler, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of sociomedical sciences and sociology at Columbia University, addressed the study’s findings.
“Public votes and voter referendums on the rights of minority groups occur in approximately half of U.S. states. Our findings suggest that the public discourse surrounding these votes may increase risk for bias-based bullying.”
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