Kriti Thapa, an alumna of the CUNY public health program, along with Dr. Elizabeth A Kelvin, professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, examined the intersection of sexual minority, gender, and Hispanic identities, and their interaction with peer victimization in predicting unhealthy weight control behaviors among New York City (NYC) youths. The findings were published in the Journal of Urban Health.
This study was initiated because there were no studies in the literature examining the interaction between minority identities and peer victimization in predicting unhealthy weight control behaviors among New York City youths.
Ms. Thapa and Dr. Kelvin utilized data from the 2011 NYC Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a biennial cross-sectional survey conducted by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to assess health risk behaviors among NYC youths. The sample was representative of students in grades 9 through 12 and included almost 12,000 respondents. The team examined the association of sexual identity, gender, ethnicity, and peer victimization (dating violence, bullying at school, electronic bullying) in predicting unhealthy weight control behaviors (vomiting or using laxatives to lose weight or keep from gaining weight).
Sexual minority youths, dating violence victims, and youths bullied at school were significantly more likely to use unhealthy weight control behaviors. The effect of dating violence on unhealthy weight control practices was strongest among sexual minority males, and the effect of electronic bullying on unhealthy weight control practices was strongest among non-sexual minority males. Sexual minority and gender identities interact with peer victimization in predicting unhealthy weight control practices among NYC youths.
Dr. Kelvin explains, “Bullying is common among adolescents and has been linked to a number of mental health and health-risk behavior outcomes. This paper adds to the growing body of evidence by linking bullying and other forms of peer victimization to unhealthy weight control behavior among New York City high school students. Furthermore, the association between peer victimization and unhealthy weight control behavior seems to vary by gender and sexual identity.”
The authors concluded that to limit the prevalence and effect of dating violence and electronic bullying among youths, interventions should consider that an individual’s experiences are based on multiple identities that can be linked to more than one area of discrimination.