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Cénat, J.M., Blais, M., Hébert, M., Lavoie, F., & Guerrier, M. (2015). Correlates of bullying in Quebec high school students: The vulnerability of sexual-minority youth. Journal of Affective Disorders, 183, 315–321.

Cyberbullying has become a serious health issue among youth, showing prevalence varying from 20% to 40% and exceeding 70% annually in some cases (Burton et al., 2013; Meyer,
2003; Roberto et al., 2014). Cyberbullying rates appear to be higher than the rates of other forms of bullying (Collier et al., 2013; Schneider et al., 2012). The aggressive nature of cyberbullying is associated with the fact that the bullies experience disinhibition as they are hidden behind their keyboards (Hinduja & Patchin, 2014). The uncontrollable nature of the Internet, particularly the high spread of information, can create a feeling of overexposure and make victims more vulnerable to psychological distress (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010).Previous studies have shown that sexual-minority youth(SMY),are repeatedly victims of cyberbullying (Blais et al., 2013). While sexual-minority boys are more often victims of physical bullying, sexual-minority girls are more often subjected to insults on the Internet (Chamberland et al., 2013). Victims of cyberbullying are likely to experience negative consequences such as high psychological distress, low self-esteem, depressive symptoms, suicidal ideations and suicide attempts (Bauman et al., 2013; Goebert et al., 2011; Hinduja & Patchin, 2010; Trickett, 2009). This study aims to explore the prevalence of cyberbullying, homophobic bullying and bullying at school or elsewhere and their association with psychological distress, low self-esteem and suicidal ideations for each sexual minority youth group.

Method: The Quebec Youths' Romantic Relationships Survey (QYRRS) targeted high school students in Quebec, Canada; participants were recruited through a sampling of 34 Quebec high schools. The sample included 8,194 students (56.3% were girls) aged 14-20 years. The questionnaire included measures of three different kinds of bullying occurring in the past year: cyberbullying “How many times has someone bullied you using the Internet’’, homophobic “How many times has someone bullied you because of your sexual orientation”, and bullying in school or elsewhere “How many times has someone bullied you at school or elsewhere except via the Internet”. Respondents rated each question on a 4-point-scale: Never (0), 1–2 times (1), 3–5 times (2) and 6 times or more (3). Suicidal ideations were assessed using a yes/no question: “Have you ever seriously thought of committing suicide?’’ Self-esteem was assessed using a short version of Self-Description Questionnaire (Marsh & O’Neill, 1984). Responses of this 5-item scale range from 0(false) to 4(true); low self-esteem was a score of 10 or less. The 10-item Kessler Psychological Distress Scale was used to measure psychological distress over the week prior to the survey (Kessler et al., 2002). Participants responded on a five-point scale ranging from 0(never) to 4(always).

Results: In the past year, participants reported 26.1%, 22.9%, and 3.6% of bullying at school or elsewhere, cyberbullying victimization and homophobic bullying. Overall, heterosexual and bisexual boys were more likely than their female counterparts to report cyberbullying. However, bisexual girls and boys were more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to report cyberbullying experiences. The prevalence of homophobic bullying was high among gay and lesbian teens (29.4%), with a proportion almost three times higher among gay boys (46.9%) compared to lesbian girls (16.5%). Regarding bullying at school or elsewhere, bisexual girls and boys and gay and questioning boys reported higher prevalence than heterosexuals (24.5%). Bisexual respondents reported a higher prevalence of psychological distress and low self-esteem than heterosexual youths. Bisexual youth also reported almost two times more suicidal ideations than heterosexuals. There was also a higher prevalence of suicidal ideations among gay, lesbians, and questioning youth when compared to heterosexuals. Overall, bullying victims report higher levels of psychological distress, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideations. Overall, girls and sexual-minority youth were more likely to experience cyberbullying and other forms of bullying as well as psychological distress, low self-esteem and suicidal ideations.

Discussion: Mental health challenges were up to two times more prevalent among sexual-minority youth who have experienced cyberbullying or homophobic bullying. For example, while 55.6% of lesbian youths who have been victims of cyberbullying have reported suicidal ideations, only 24.7% have reported so among those who have not experienced cyberbullying. For homophobic bullying, 94.4% of victimized lesbians reported suicidal ideations against 20.9% among the non-victimized. Bisexual girls were more likely to report psychological distress, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation associated with cyberbullying and homosexual bullying than other sexual-minority youth. The results highlight the relevance of taking into account gender and sexual orientation variations in efforts to prevent bullying and its consequences.