STUDY: It Really Does Get Better

We’ve been saying it for years, and we always believed it, but now there’s actual scientific evidence that proves it really does get better.

A multi-year study of LGBTQ youth out of Northwestern University’s IMPACT LGBT Health and Development Program found that, while bullying is linked to psychological distress, “both distress and victimization decreased as the adolescents grew up.” More on the study from HuffPo’s Gay Voices:

As reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the researchers used data from 231 LGBTQ young men and women who were ages 16 to 20 at the start of the study.

The teens were assessed six times over an average of three and a half years beginning in 2007 or 2008. They rated the amount of bullying or victimization they experienced in the past six months on a scale of 0 to 3, with 0 being never and 3 being three or more times. At age 16, their average victimization score was 0.38, compared to 0.14 by age 24.

They also rated their psychological distress on a scale of 0 to 4, with 0 being “not at all” and 4 meaning “always.” On average, the distress scores were 0.84 at age 16. By age 24, the average score fell to 0.54.

Males, some racial and ethnic minorities and transgender individuals reported greater victimization.

The researchers found that victimization was indeed linked with psychological distress, which suggests that decreasing victimization across childhood and adolescence may decrease distress in those populations too.

The study team also found that support, such as from family members, remained relatively stable across adolescence. While that support provided some immediate relief for psychological distress, there was no link between the amount of support the young person got and later distress.

While this is great news, it’s no excuse to ease up on the push to end bullying. As the study’s lead author Michelle Birkett says, “I think we should be very happy that it does get better, but I think it’s important not to forget victimization is important and happens very early. … It’s not good enough to just wait. It should be tackled early on so kids don’t have to experience it. … I want it to get better sooner.”

If you’re a young person experiencing bullying, there are tons of researchers. Start with one of our favorites, the Attic Youth Center, by visiting their website, calling (215-545-4331) or stopping by 255 South 16th Street.