Researchers have found that peer victimisation is associated with adverse psychological and behavioural problems, including depression and risky health behaviours, such as substance use and unprotected sex with multiple partners. According to the study published in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, in 2015, approximately one-third of high school students in the US reported having sex recently.
Of these, 43 per cent had not used a condom, 21 per cent had drunk alcohol or used drugs before sexual intercourse, and 14 per cent had not used any contraception methods. "It is critical to creating safe and private spaces for boys to share their experiences, and we hope that this research will encourage schools to consider efforts to destigmatize victimisation through peer mentorship and open communication," said study researchers Youn Kyoung Kim from University of Tennessee.
For the study, the researchers analysed the 2015 Youth Risk Behaviour System Survey, a nationally representative survey of US high school students containing data from 5,288 individuals who reported having engaged in sexual intercourse.
They also examined gender differences in the relationships between four types of peer victimisation (school bullying, cyberbullying, physical dating violence, and sexual dating violence), depression, and risky sexual behaviours among US high school students.
Peer victimisation related to symptoms of depression
The results show that all types of peer victimisation are related to symptoms of depression for both females and males, and physical and sexual dating violence are associated with increased risky sexual behaviours. However, school bullying does not predict risky sexual behaviours. Among males, cyberbullying predicts increased risky sexual behaviours and the relationship is greater when a boy is depressed, the research said.
The findings suggest that adolescent boys who are cyberbullied pursue risky sexual behaviours more frequently than girls who are cyberbullied. Results may reflect a culture of toxic masculinity and highlight the need to pay special attention to male victims, who may be reluctant to self-identify, and therefore, at greater risk of negative health outcomes.