Proposition 8 and homophobic bullying in California

Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Yishan Shen, Elizabeth A. Vandewater, Stephen T. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Bias-based bullying is associated with negative outcomes for youth, but its contextual predictors are largely unknown. Voter referenda that target lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups may be 1 contextual factor contributing to homophobic bullying. METHODS: Data come from 14 consecutive waves (2001–2014) of cross-sectional surveys of students participating in the California Healthy Kids Survey (N = 4 977 557). Student responses were aggregated to the school level (n = 5121). Using a quasi-experimental design, we compared rates of homophobic bullying before and after Proposition 8, a voter referendum that restricted marriage to heterosexuals in November 2008. RESULTS: Interrupted time series analyses confirmed that the academic year 2008–2009, during which Proposition 8 was passed, served as a turning point in homophobic bullying. The rate of homophobic bullying increased (blinear = 1.15; P, .001) and accelerated (bquadratic = 0.08; P, .001) in the period before Proposition 8. After Proposition 8, homophobic bullying gradually decreased (blinear = 20.28; P, .05). Specificity analyses showed that these trends were not observed among students who reported that they were bullied because of their race and/or ethnicity, religion, or gender but not because of their sexual orientation. Furthermore, the presence of a protective factor specific to school contexts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth (gay-straight alliances) was associated with a smaller increase in homophobic bullying pre–Proposition 8. CONCLUSIONS: This research provides some of the first empirical evidence that public campaigns that promote stigma may confer risk for bias-based bullying among youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20182116
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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