Doctoral dissertation

Dissertation: U.S Gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents more likely to be victims of school violence, bullying

Victimization that occurs during adolescence has lifelong negative emotional, physical, and economic effects. State and national surveys of U.S. high school students indicated that adolescents who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual were more likely than straight adolescents to be threatened, bullied, and/or involved in physical fights on school property.

Although bullying has existed in literature and lore for centuries, scientific research on school bullying only first emerged in the 1970s. Intense bullying caused a cluster of youth suicides in Norway, which sparked the beginning of bullying as a phenomenon to be studied, and the scientific field exploded.

In the U.S. in the late aughts, another cluster of highly-publicized youth suicides occurred, this time among bullied lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) youth. In response, the White House organized a federally-sponsored conference on bullying research and prevention. Federal researchers were tasked with finding, collecting, and disseminating accurate statistics on bullying prevalence. Moreover, the task was to identify certain groups of youth – especially LGB youth - who had the greatest risk of bullying and other victimizations by their peers.

The dissertation describes the results of these efforts. The studies used large, representative samples of U.S. adolescents to assess sexual identity and identify patterns of bullying, fighting at school, being threatened at school, and other measures of victimization while at school. The studies were among the first large, federal studies of LGB bullying published using representative samples of youth.

The results generally indicated that LGB adolescents in the U.S. were victimized at school more frequently than their heterosexual peers. The rates of school victimization and bullying were further nuanced by student gender. Altogether the results of the dissertation signal that there are many opportunities for intervention. While most LGB youth will successfully and smoothly make the transition to adulthood, the results of these studies show clearly that too many LGB youth are suffering.

MSPH Emily Olsen lives in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and currently works as an epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The doctoral dissertation of MSPH Emily Olsen in the field of epidemiology titled School Violence and Sexual Identity among United States Adolescents: Results from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 1995-2015 will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Tampere University at 12.00 on Friday 15.3.2019, Arvo building auditorium F114, street address Arvo Ylpön katu 34. The Opponent will be Research Director of The Finnish Foundation for Alcohol Studies, Adjunct Professor Tomi Lintonen. The Custos will be Adjunct Professor Susanna Lehtinen-Jacks, Epidemiology, Unit of health Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences.

The dissertation is available online at