Students Report that Disability Status, Mental Health Diagnoses Correlate to Different Types of Peer Harassment Victimization

A new study shows that young people who have disabilities or struggle with mental health experience harassment and bullying in patterns specific to their type of disability or diagnosis.  

The study, which was recently published in the national journal Children & Schools, collected data via a telephone survey of nearly 800 adolescents and teenagers with these conditions. 

Of this group, 30 percent reported being the target of harassment and bullying. While this figure matches rates for young people overall, the methods for harassment varied. Those with physical disabilities tended to be bullied more frequently via technology.  Participants with learning disabilities more often experienced these behaviors in person.  Respondents who had been diagnosed with depression reported being harassed and bullied both online and in person. 

Scholars at the University of New Hampshire who completed the study say this finding may help educators better understand how to address these behaviors.  They also recommend that schools implement student-led programs in which young people assume the primary responsibility for educating and supporting their peers about the problem of bullying and harassment.