Teenage bullies are prone to engage in risky sexual behavior, a new study finds.
Casual sex and sex while drunk or high was more common among bullies and bully-victims than among other teens, a survey of more than 8,600 high school students found. Bully-victims are children who are both bullies and bullied.
"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.
The report, published online Nov. 11 in Pediatrics, did not directly address why bullies and bully-victims might engage in risky sexual behaviors, Holt noted. "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.
The increased risk for sexual risk-taking among bullies and bully-victims held even after taking into account factors such as dating violence, physical abuse and sexual abuse, Holt added.
"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.