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Study Finds Bullies Are More likely to Partake in Risky Sex

Update Date: Nov 14, 2013 10:22 AM EST
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Bullies tend to exist regardless of the environment. However, bullying behavior often affect preteens and teenagers the most. In a new study that examined the role of the bully as opposed to the effects the bullies have on others, researchers are reporting that bullies might make riskier decisions when it comes to sex.

"Findings from this study add to our understanding of the ways in which bullying affects youth and provide preliminary evidence that bullies and bullies who are also victims might be at heightened risk for sexual risk-taking behaviors," said lead researcher Melissa Holt, an assistant professor of counseling and human development at Boston University.

For this study, researchers surveyed over 8,687 teenagers from a Midwestern high school. The answers revealed that bully-victims, who are teenagers who were both bullies and bullied, and bullies tended to participate in casual sex more often. Teenagers who were bully-victims and bullies were also more likely to have sex when they were intoxicated or high. The researchers found that around six percent of the interviewees reported being a bully and another six percent said they were bully-victims. Nine percent of the students stated that they were victims of bullying.

The data also reveled that around one in four teen bullies and about one in five bully-victims were involved with casual sex. These rates were high when compared to teenagers who were bullied and teenagers who were not bullies and not victims. The team calculated that eight percent of victims and around seven percent of teenagers who were not bullied or bullies engaged in casual sex. The team also found that 34 percent of bullies and 23 percent of bully victims had sex while they were high or drunk. Only 11 percent of victims and 12 percent of teenagers not involved with bullying at all had sex while high or intoxicated.

"The time has come to acknowledge that bullying is a recognized health issue and that methods of prevention and help for those involved are important and necessary," said Dr. Jefry Biehler, chair of pediatrics at Miami Children's Hospital reported by Medical Xpress. Biehler was not a part of the study. "Risk-taking behaviors among adolescents can and do have potential life-long consequences for the child and society."

The researchers believe that their study's findings stress the importance of preventing people form becoming bullies. Programs should also be geared to help reduce risky sexual behaviors especially during the teenage years. Despite the relationship the researchers found between bullies/bully-victims and risky behaviors, it was not a cause-and-effect one and therefore, the researchers could not state that bullying directly leads to more risky sexual acts. The team also did not delve into why a correlation might exist between the two factors. The researchers added that their study focused on heterosexual teenagers.

"It may be that bullying and sexual risk reflect a coping response to stressors not captured in the study, such as harsh parenting," Holt reasoned.

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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