Bullying is a widespread problem in different social settings. It occurs within workplaces, homes, and schools. Research on bullying focuses on its impact on people who experience it. For instance, Stop Bullying (2014) asserts that bullying influences people’s creativity reduces morale, causes accidents, and affects their moral and ethical judgment. It also hinders people from achieving full potential in their talented areas.
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Forero, McLellan, Rissel, and Bauman (2009) reckon that bullying takes the form of sexual harassment and molestation, verbal abuse, physical anguish, and psychological torture. In school settings, it makes children fail to attend schools. The situation lowers their performance. Bullying may manifest itself differently in school settings. The current research examines whether lesbian or gay college students are bullied more than heterosexual college students.
When doing research on a particular subject, it is advisable to conduct a thorough literature review to know what other scholars have commented on the same issue. The researcher also stands a better chance of identifying any gaps that his or her research can address. This section reviews the existing literature on what researchers have done on the issue of bullying among gay or lesbian students.
The goal is to find out whether this category of people is harassed more than their heterosexual counterparts. Specifically, the section addresses the prevalence of bullying in schools and the level of bullying in bisexuals, gay males, and lesbians. It deploys the case of Jade Stringer, Walsh Seth, and Chelisa Grimes as real-life examples of what bullying implies to gays and lesbians in America.
Prevalence of Bullying Cases in Schools
School-based maltreatment is the most common type of bullying. For example, Jade Stringer, a student at Haslingden in Rossendale School, hanged herself after being bullied based on her pretty looks. She died shortly after arrival at Fairfield Hospital at the age of 14 years. Nansel et al. (2011) reveal that 15% to 20% of students report experiencing bullying within a term in the US. However, this level of school bullying is lower when compared to other places. Nansel et al. (2011) assert that some nations report up to 70% of cases of student bullying. Across the world, schools experience high cases of frequent bullying.
This category of bullying occurs at least once within a week. Forero et al. (2009) conducted a research on a Malta sample, which indicated 19% prevalence levels. Their research on an Irish sample indicated a 1.9% prevalence of frequent bullying (Forero et al., 2009). Different types of bullying take the form of verbal abuse, rumor-mongering, physical aggression, name-calling, threats, and even rejection.
Many researches on school bullying have been conducted in the Australian and European contexts (Nansel et al., 2011). Such researches have also not distinguished the prevalence levels of different kinds of bullying in schools. This gap creates a room for not only conducting similar research in the US context but also focusing the research on a specific type of bullying.
Cases of sexual orientation-based bullying have been recorded in different schools across the US. For example, at the age of 13, Walsh Seth committed suicide in 2010 after persevering anti-gay bullying in school. LGBT Rights (2011) reported how her fellow students severally called her a ‘queer’ or even a ‘fag.’ Little research exists on the levels of this category of bullying or its effects on college students.
Common sexuality categories include homosexuality, heterosexuality, and transgender. Homosexuality entails a sexual attraction between people of the same gender. It takes the form of sexual attraction between two men or between two women (lesbianism). The term gay describes same-gender sexual attractions. Heterosexuality describes the sexual attraction between persons of the opposite gender while transgender describes sexual attractions among all genders, perhaps due to the inability to differentiate people’s gender biologically or simply because of one’s sexual orientation preferences.
Level of Bullying for Bisexuals, Gay Males, and Lesbians
Research documents that bisexuals, gay males, and lesbians experience problems of prejudice, victimization, and violence akin to their sexual affiliation. Pilkington and D’Augelli (1995) conducted a survey involving 194 gays and bisexuals. Roughly 22% of gay males and 29% of the gay females reported physical bullying from their peers. As suggested by Espelage, Holt, and Henkel (2003), amid an emerging body of literature on bullying in the US schools, the literature on gender nonconformity-based violence, particularly among college students, remains shallow. This situation implies a little focus on discrimination of students due to their sexual orientations, yet gays and bisexuals have encountered physical and psychological bullying in colleges and in other social contexts.
Apart from the little focus on sexuality orientation-based bullying in American schools, Russell, Sinclair, Poteat, and Koening (2012) observe the minimal focus on the causes of bullying in American schools, amid its high prevalence levels. This observation supports the assertion raised before that most of the scholarly work on bullying in schools has been conducted in the Australian and European context.
The literature on school victimization contends that both gay males and females experience high risks of encountering negative schooling experience. Using a sample of 2000 participants, Berlan, Corliss, Field, Goodman, and Austin (2010) reveal high victimization preferences among young college students who identified themselves as LGBT. Russell et al. (2012) assert that LGBTs experience pronounced school bullying more than those who identify themselves as heterosexuals.
Bullying that is based on sexual orientation introduces difficulties and impediments towards the appreciation of one’s sexuality. Human Rights Watch (2001) supports this assertion by claiming that by 2001, an excess of 2 million school-going children in the US experienced problems of handling their sexual orientation problems. The organization also reported high prevalence levels of bullying towards LGBT youths.
The organization’s 2001 data indicated that about three times of LGBTs were injured or threatened using a weapon compared to their heterosexual counterparts youths. LGBT had higher chances of missing school in fear of their safety, as opposed to their heterosexual counterparts (Human Rights Watch, 2001). This finding suggests that bullying of LGBT youths denies them certain privileges and rights, such as sufficient access to education.
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What bullying implies to Gays and Lesbians in America
Irrespective of the form of maltreatment and its target, bullying has significant implications. It denies people their rights to equity and equality in terms of their participation in societal processes (Thorvaldur & Zoega, 2011). When organizations such as schools have bullies, less powerful, and discriminated, people develop perceptions that they are incapable of defending themselves relative to people who attempt to shape and control their life in certain ways.
Therefore, bullied gays and lesbians lose equity and equality rights in participating in social processes. They have limited access to public goods such as education. For example, Chelsea Grimes sent her son to school with a gun to scare bullies. The 17-year-old gay son by the name Young removed a stun gun from a pack and electrically charged the air, thus forcing his anti-gay bullies to run yelling for their safety (Morano, 2012).
Bullying gays and lesbians are unhealthy for their psychological health. Such bullying leads to discrimination that amounts to psychological torture. Discriminatory practices are those that segregate the quality of public goods such as healthcare and education depending on characteristics that range from ethnicity, race, sexuality, disability, gender, and age to nationality, among others. Considering the implications of bullying, Stop Bullying (2014) recommends social institutions to explore policies that enhance equality, diversity, and rights of all people, amid their demographic and psychographic differences.
Berlan et al. (2010) reveal high the prevalence of sexual orientation-based bullying. Lesbian girls who report more bullying than heterosexuals do not report incidents of bullying perpetration. This observation suggests that bullying may not specifically be prevalent in a given school on homosexuals. Bullied female youth gays may adopt reactive behaviors towards the people who bully them so that bisexuals and heterosexuals complain of sexually-oriented bullying perpetration.
Lesbian girls in Guam, a region in Asian-pacific, reported high physical aggression towards their peers (Pinhey & Brown, 2005). In the study, bullying was associated with dealing with an unsafe and threatening school environment (Pinhey & Brown, 2005). The researchers speculated that bisexuals and lesbian youths engaged in fighting while their heterosexual peers served defensive purposes as opposed to the portrayal of aggressive behaviors.
Bullying makes the victims engage in associated risky behaviors. In school settings, bullied students increase their exposure to risky behaviors such as abusing alcohol and smoking. They also vandalize property, engage in fights, and/or have a high probability of dropping out of school (Polanin, Espelage & Pigott, 2012). Bullies are more likely to face convictions. They also have higher chances of abusing their siblings in adulthood. In fear of negative stereotyping, bullied youths may exhibit high absenteeism levels, poor concentration in classes, and negative perceptions about their sexuality and self-esteem (Russell et al., 2012).
Inadequate research on bullying that is acerbated along secularity differences underlines the significance of conducting research in the US context on the disproportionate bullying among students of different sexual orientations. This research aims at expanding the body of literature on bullying in US colleges.
The methodology of this study borrows from a real-life scenario that happened in one of the colleges in the US, namely Walden University. The college is well known for its quality education that it offers to its diverse students. However, in one of the boys’ hostels, a scenario happened involving four students who used to stay in the same room that had two separate beds. Two of the boys had developed suspicious behaviors of being attracted to one another after sharing their bed for almost three months. The other two boys did not depict any sexual attraction, despite them sharing the other bed.
Although they were not sure of any sexual interaction that these two boys had been having, they began giving them funny and demeaning names. The boys who had been suspecting their roommates revealed the suspicious behavior to their colleagues. A day dawned when a group of ten students, including females, stormed the room and beat the two suspicious students claiming that they were violating the moral and natural laws that dictate sexual attraction towards the opposite gender.
This scenario marked the dawn of a situation where more gay and lesbian student harassment became common in this college. Building from this situation, this research seeks to gather data from other US colleges to determine whether gays or lesbians are exposed to heightened harassment in relation to their heterosexual counterparts.
This research uses a pragmatic research design. Freshwater, Sherwood, and Drury (2006) confirm, “Pragmatic researchers grant themselves the freedom to use any of the methods, techniques, and procedures that are typically associated with quantitative or qualitative research” (p.295). The selected methods depend on researchers’ perception and evaluation of methods that best suit the particular type of research.
In the current research on bullying among gay and lesbians in the American colleges, the best set of methods is the one, which can complement any other technique. This assertion undermines the logic for designing the research as a pragmatic study plan. It uses aspects of qualitative and quantitative research (Cohen & Crabtree, 2008).
The effectiveness of qualitative research requires the demonstration of various features of excellence. Qualitative research has some drawbacks, such as lack of validity since it is important to add rigor, subjectivity, and creativity in a scientific process. Rigor is incredibly important in all systematic qualitative researches (Finlay, 2006). In such research, the deployed data only needs to follow certain criteria in establishing differences or relationships.
The current research determines whether lesbians or gay college students get bullied more than heterosexual college students. The implication is that differences in bullying experiences among lesbians, male gays, and homosexuals are important in the research. However, quantification of levels of bullying is important while making comparisons. This goal can only be realized if quantitative data is also collected.
Since most of the researches that have been done on the subject has been focused much on the European and Australian settings, it is crucial to find out if the same results will be obtained if the research is conducted in a different setting. The current research will be set in the US. The aim is to find out if the findings in the previous settings match what the US colleges will present. Several US colleges will be sampled randomly. However, the focus will be made on schools that accommodate gays, lesbians, and heterosexual students. The reason for concentrating on this category of students is that they have the right information that the researcher wants to investigate.
The instrument that will be deployed in the data collection is the questionnaire. Students will be required to provide quantitative and qualitative information about their bullying experience. Six questions will be incorporated into the questionnaire, as stated below.
- Please provide your sexuality information. Please do not indicate your name or any other personal information, which may disclose your identity — tick only one box as appropriate.
- Male gay
- Female gay (lesbian)
- If male gay, have you ever been bullied?
- If your response to (2) is yes, who bullied you
- A male gay
- A heterosexual bully
- A female gay
- If female gay, who bullied you
- A male gay
- A heterosexual bully
- A female gay
- If a heterosexual, who bullied you
- A male gay
- A heterosexual bully
- A female gay
- Please explain your experiences in the hands of the bullies (please limit your explanation to a maximum of 150 words)
Selection of Subjects
The goal of the proposed research is to determine the differences between bullying of lesbians or gays and heterosexuals. Therefore, selecting a sample size that can yield powerful quantitative information for making statistical inferences is necessary. While selecting the subjects of the study, certain parameters of the sample must be known. Saunders, Thornhill, and Lewis (2009) identify them as confidence interval or error margin, size of the studied population, expected confidence level, and the Standard Deviation (SD).
In the current research, the total number of students in college may be important. Although this number may be obtained from the college administration, the research can still be conducted. In most quantitative studies, the population is commonly unknown (Saunders et al., 2009). The only important thing is to determine the most appropriate demographic group of study. The demographic group for this research is 17-28-year-old youths.
After determining the target group of the research, establishing the research confidence interval follows. There are no perfect samples, which underline the importance of setting limits of the permissible error or the confidence level. Scott (2011) reckons, “confidence level determines how much higher or lower (than the population) researchers are willing to let their sample mean to fall in” (p.89). The current research uses a standard value of +/-5. This range means that the research will use a 95 percent confidence interval.
Standard deviation refers to the degree to which interviewee responses should vary. This research uses an SD value of 0.5, which is the most convenient value that gives the chosen population portion a recommendable size. Different confidence levels correspond to different Z-score values. A 95% confidence level corresponds to a Z-score value of 1.96. This value makes it possible to compute the sample size.
Substituting the chosen values in the equation yields 385 as the sample size or the required number of subjects.
- Three hundred eighty-five copies of questionnaires will be distributed without selecting the gender of the student receiving them.
- The respondent will indicate his or her gender in the questionnaires. It is anticipated that all 385 students will answer the questions in the questionnaire. Thus, no questionnaire will be rejected.
- After collecting the filled questionnaires, the next step will involve their analysis.
- After the analysis, results will be presented, followed by a discussion of the findings. Recommendations will then be made.
Data Processing and Analysis
Latent Class Analysis (LCA) will be utilized in analyzing the connections between specific victimization and gay, lesbian, or heterosexuality sexuality types. By computing the percentages of responses for each question in the questionnaire, the researcher will analyze individual subgroups of samples that are likely to be labeled bullies. These results will then be used to conduct an analysis of differences in bullying in the college for both heterosexuals (controlled group) and lesbians and gays.
Little research has been done on bullying among college students in the US. Homosexuals have experienced stigmatization since time immemorial. Now, the US recognizes the importance of embracing its diversity amid the witnessed differences in sexual orientation. However, the bullying of students who identify themselves as LGBTs may still exist in colleges. LGBTs can also be bullied as heterosexual students. Since bullying is disadvantageous in all social institutions, it becomes important to determine its prevalence in US colleges. The proposed research seeks to fulfill this objective. Knowing prevalence levels makes it easier to develop the appropriate programs for addressing bullying in specific groups of students.
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