What is Differential Victimization?

While bullying is widespread among high school students, there is now an awareness of “differential victimization” – victimization based on certain shared characteristics of the people receiving harassment. A study has drawn multiple connections between the LGBT community’s harassment during adolescence (mainly high school years), in comparison with mental health conditions. Here are some brief statistics found:

  • More males than females were verbally harassed due to their sexual orientation. 
  • One third of a group of 416 students has reported physical assault. 
  • In the US alone, 33 – 49% of the LGBT community face harassment in high school. 
  • One quarter of students have said that they have missed school occasionally due to fear of being harassed, or fear from their bullies. 
  • 38% of these students were involved in physical fights. 
  • 59% of the group studied had experienced verbal abuse in high school. 

An interesting connection was made between abuses to the LGBT community during the years of adolescence versus the years of adulthood. The study shows that there is a greater damaging effect on bullying at an age of adolescence, as compared to adult years. This is because of the mental state of the adolescent – they are relatively new to the mindset of accepting their LGBT identity and may not understand how to confidently express their feelings. They are more prone to caving in to the physical and verbal harassment they encounter in school. Another interesting concept was the importance of the environment adolescents that experience abuse are placed in. This tends to be problematic because they are often unable to avoid the environments in which they are being harassed – unfortunately, a student will not be able to escape schooling, unless they plan to drop out, which is another sign of worry as well. 

This is a great concern in the day to day life of high school students in our country. It is important that we are aware of these special terms so we can understand that we have to treat these cases with a different emphasis. Many high school students from the LGBT community face day to day discrimination and abuse in the form of physical violence and verbal slander. We have to understand the severity and importance of these statistical facts and how they affect mental health in order to continue attempting to treat the problem.

For more stats and information on LGBT differential victimization, read the research article:

D’augelli, A. R., Pilkington, N. W., & Hershberger, S. L. (2002). Incidence and mental health impact of sexual orientation victimization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths in high school. School Psychology Quarterly17(2), 148.