Bullying at School and on the Street: Risk Factors and Outcomes Among Homeless Youth

Bullying at School and on the Street: Risk Factors and Outcomes Among Homeless Youth

Though rates of bullying among general population youth are high, there is elevated prevalence among certain subgroups, in particular sexual minority homeless youth. Enduring bullying can have devastating consequences, including poor mental health, revictimization, and substance abuse. The current study compares risk factors (i.e., sexual orientation, gender, and child abuse) for being bullied both at school and on the street among homeless youth. We also examine the associations of both contexts of bullying (i.e., at school and on the street) with physical and sexual victimization while on the street, with illicit drug use. From July 2014 to October 2015, we interviewed 150 homeless youth aged 16 to 22 years in shelters and on the streets from two Midwestern cities. Our sample was 51% female and 22% identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB). Results revealed that LGB youth experienced more frequent bullying at school and were more likely to have ever used one or more illicit drugs at least a few times compared with heterosexual youth. Moreover, youth who experienced more child abuse prior to leaving home were also victimized more often at school (school bullying) and on the street (street bullying). Young people who experienced more sexual and physical street victimization were more likely to report illicit drug use compared with those who had fewer street victimization experiences. Overall, youth who experience victimization in one context (i.e., home) are at heightened risk for being bullied in additional contexts (i.e., school). These findings have important policy and service intervention implications, such that service providers should attend to homeless youth’s multiple social contexts of victimization and the potential for youth’s illicit drug use as a coping mechanism.

JOURNAL: Journal of Interpersonal Violence 
PUBLICATION DATE: 2018