Study Finds Teens Who Bully Others More Likely to Engage in Casual, Risky Sex


A new study published in Pediatrics has found a link between teens who bully other kids and sexual risk-taking. The study, which surveyed almost 9,000 high school students from 24 schools, also found that bully-victims, children who are both bullies and bullied themselves, are prone to engaging in risky sexual behavior as well. Reuters breaks down the report's findings: 

About 80 percent of the students said they had not bullied other kids or been bullied themselves.

Seven percent of those teens reported ever having casual sex with someone they just met or didn't know very well. And 12 percent said they had had sex under the influence.

The numbers were similar for students who said they had been bullied, but hadn't bullied others. 

But among the six percent of kids who claimed to have acted as bullies, one quarter had engaged in casual sex and just over a third said they'd had sex while drunk or high.

Another six percent of students said they had both acted as bullies and been the victims of bullying. Of those teens, 20 percent had had casual sex and 23 percent reported having sex under the influence.

Melissa Holt, lead researcher and an assistant professor of counseling and human development at Boston University, said the relation between aggression and sexual risk-taking was unsurprising considering previous research.

"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 of sexual risk-taking behavior," she said. 

Holt noted that the report did not directly address why bullies and bully-victims engage in risky sexual behavior, it merely captured the correlation.

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

Researchers also looked at students' sexual orientation, but found the link between bullying and risky sex was strongest among heterosexual teens. However, LGBT youth were twice as likely to report being bullied as their straight peers and were also more likely to say they had experienced dating violence or been sexually abused.