The Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC) brought together representatives of key sectors involved in bullying prevention. Columbia Mailman School’s Dr. Mark Hatzenbuehler, assistant professor of sociomedical sciences and co-director of the Center for the Study of Social Inequalities and Health, was one of the discussants at the two-day workshop titled “Building Capacity to Reduce Bullying and Its Impact on Youth Across the Lifecourse”. Dr. Hatzenbuehler and other experts provided perspectives on the models and interventions that have proven effective in decreasing bullying and possible directions for mitigating the negative effects of bullying and other further actions.
The report recognizes bullying as a substantial and preventable health problem that is associated with anxiety, depression, poor school performance, and future delinquent behavior among its targets. Reports regularly surface of youth who have committed suicide at least in part because of intolerable bullying.
“Although virtually all of the states have anti-bullying laws, little is known about the extent to which these laws and policies actually decrease bullying behaviors,” noted Dr. Hatzenbuehler, who was an invited panelist for the section on Laws and Public Policies.
One of Dr. Hatzenbuehler’s studies cited in the report suggests that “inclusive” anti-bullying policies — those that specifically include sexual orientation as a protected-class status — not only reduce the risk of suicide attempts in gay and lesbian teenagers but also the risk for peer victimization for all youth, not just gay youth. “However, much more research is needed to establish best practices for policy makers and school administrators, including stronger methodologies to establish cause-and-effect linkages,” he noted.
Dr. Hatzenbuehler’s research focuses on the causes of mental health disparities related to sexual orientation; the health consequences of exposure to structural forms of stigma; and the identification of biopsychosocial mechanisms linking stigma to adverse health outcomes.