Bullying, Physical Aggression, Gender-Atypicality, and Sexual Orientation in Samoan Males
Bullying is characterized by the repeated attempts of a group or individual to gain social advantage by the use of relational, verbal, or physical aggression against a target, especially when there is a perceived or actual power imbalance (Espelage & Swearer, 2003). One consistent finding is that gay (i.e., androphilic) males report higher rates of victimization due to bullying in adolescence than their heterosexual (i.e., gynephilic) counterparts. Western data indicate that gender-atypical behavior, regardless of sexual orientation, is a key predictor of victimization due to bullying. Androphilic males generally display childhood gender-atypicality, including reduced levels of physical aggression, which may cause bullies to perceive them as “easy” targets. In order to test the associations between sexual orientation, childhood gender-atypicality, and recalled victimization due to bullying, a sample of Samoan gynephilic men (n = 100) were compared to a group of Samoan transgender androphilic males (n = 103), known as fa’afafine. Although the fa’afafine reported far more childhood gender-atypicality, the two groups did not differ significantly on measures of physical aggression or their reported rates of victimization due to bullying. Additionally, greater physical aggression, not gender-atypicality, was the only significant predictor of being bullied in both men and fa’afafine. These results suggest that there is nothing inherent in sexual orientation or childhood gender-atypicality that would potentiate victimization from bullying. Instead, the cultural context in which a bully functions influences the extent to which these are “acceptable” reasons to target certain individuals.
KeywordsBullying Physical aggression Gender-atypicality Sexual orientation Samoa
We wish to thank Trisha Tuiloma, the Government of Samoa, and those who participated in our study. We also thank the Editor and two anonymous referees. Special thanks to Alatina Ioelu. This research was supported by the University of Lethbridge, a SSHRC-CGS award to SWS, and a SSHRC Insight Grant to PLV.
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