Developmental trends in peer victimization and emotional distress in LGB and heterosexual youth

Joseph P. Robinson, Dorothy L. Espelage, Ian Rivers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: This study had 2 objectives: Our first objective was to provide the first evidence of developmental trends in victimization rates for lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB)- and heterosexual-identified youth, both in absolute and relative terms, and to examine differences by gender. Our second objective was to examine links between victimization, sexual identity, and later emotional distress. METHODS: Data are from a nationally representative prospective cohort study of youth in England were collected annually between 2004 and 2010. Our final analytic dataset includes 4135 participants with data at all 7 waves; 4.5% (n = 187) identified as LGB. Analyses included hierarchical linear modeling, propensity score matching, and structural equation modeling. RESULTS: LGB victimization rates decreased in absolute terms. However, trends in relative rates were more nuanced: Gay/bisexual-identified boys became more likely to be victimized compared with heterosexualidentified boys (wave 1: odds ratio [OR] = 1.78, P = .011; wave 7: OR = 3.95, P = .001), whereas relative rates among girls approached parity (wave 1: OR = 1.95, P = .001; wave 7: OR = 1.18, P = .689), suggesting different LGB-heterosexual relative victimization rate trends for boys and girls. Early victimization and emotional distress explained about 50% of later LGB-heterosexual emotional distress disparities for both boys and girls (each P < .015). CONCLUSIONS: Victimization of LGB youth decreases in absolute, but not necessarily relative, terms. The findings suggest that addressing LGB victimization during adolescence is critical to reducing LGB-heterosexual emotional distress disparities but additional support may be necessary to fully eliminate these disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-430
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Adolescents
  • Bisexual
  • Developmental trends
  • Emotional distress
  • Gay
  • Lesbian
  • Longitudinal analysis
  • Peer victimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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