CHICAGO (STMW) — A researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago has received a $730,000 grant for a four-year study of adolescents’ reasoning about bullying due to gender and sexuality, and about bullying as a means of social control.

Stacey Horn, UIC associate professor of educational psychology, said a growing body of research shows the prevalence of sexuality-related bullying, but few studies have investigated how adolescents view such behavior, and how age, culture, social groups, and school context influence their views.

her findings will impact anti-bullying measures in Illinois schools.

Her research, thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation, will begin with a survey to assess the frequency of various types of bullying in Chicago-area public schools, a release from UIC said. The grant was announced this past week by UIC.

Horn said harassment may include “calling someone (a sexually demeaning name) to harm their social status, spreading a rumor about their sexual behavior, or even physical assault.”

The researchers then also conduct one-on-one interviews of seventh-, ninth-, and 11th-graders that will encourage them to recall incidents of sexuality-related interactions, including such details as the relationship of perpetrator and victim, their mental states, peer status, presence of bystanders, outcome of the event, and to what extent the interview subject considered it harassment, according to the release.

In a second round of interviews, researchers will present vignettes based on incidents discussed in previous interviews, record the students’ reactions, and prepare case studies to determine how those reactions are influenced by school context, particularly their schools’ compliance with Illinois’ recent anti-bullying law.

Horn said the Ford Foundation grant is unique in its focus on public policy. Recipients must not only conduct research, but also produce public education campaigns based on research results and train graduate students as the next generation of researchers in sexuality and sexual rights.

Horn’s research team will develop its public education campaign in partnership with the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance to reach middle- and high-school students and school personnel.

“We’ll be heavily involved in shaping how the anti-bullying law is implemented across the state,” Horn said.

“We’re also working with a coalition of teacher education faculty from across the state to ensure that all teacher education students get adequate training in sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Horn’s research will begin in January, the release said. Preliminary results from the research will be announced over the next two to three years.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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