School Mental Health

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 790–806 | Cite as

Teacher Relationships and Adolescents Experiencing Identity-Based Victimization: What Matters for Whom Among Stigmatized Adolescents

  • Maggi PriceEmail author
  • Nancy E. Hill
  • Belle Liang
  • John Perella
Original Paper


The negative impact of discrimination on adolescent mental health is well established, but less is known about the effects of identity-based bullying (i.e., verbal or physical assaults targeting identity(ies)). The current study examined the impact of identity-based victimization (i.e., everyday discrimination and identity-based bullying) on mental health, and the protective role of teacher–student relationships, in a diverse sample of adolescents. Data from a diverse sample of 9th–12th graders (N = 986, 51% youth of Color, 52% cisgender girls, 22% sexual minorities, 41% free/reduced-price lunch status) in a semi-urban high school were analyzed using structural equation modeling analyses, including moderation and multi-group comparisons. Findings indicated that identity-based victimization is pervasive and negatively associated with mental health. Adolescents with stigmatized identities across sexual orientation, race, and gender faced a higher risk of experiencing identity-based victimization, and mental health challenges. Teacher–student relationships that were positive and autonomy-enhancing had a moderating effect on the association between identity-based victimization and mental health for many adolescents, such that they were not protective for those experiencing more severe victimization (i.e., high discrimination or identity-based bullying). Multigroup analyses indicated significant model fit differences across race and gender. Results suggest that extant school-based supports are not enough to combat the pervasive effects of identity-based victimization. Findings support the examination and implementation of changes in clinical and school-based practice and policy to better support stigmatized and victimized adolescents.


Discrimination Sexual minorities Ethnic identity Gender Bullying Mental health 



This investigation was supported in part by the Dean’s Venture Fund from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Boston College Collaborative Fellows Grant.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no potential conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Counseling, Developmental, and Educational PsychologyBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Graduate School of EducationHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Medford Public SchoolsMedfordUSA
  5. 5.Revere Public SchoolsRevereUSA

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