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Study finds evidence that ‘It Gets Better’ for gay, lesbian and bisexual teens

The Seattle Police Department, the Seahawks and the Mariners are among the groups from across the country who have been recording "It Gets Better" videos to encourage gay youth. Now, a study from the University of Illinois shows bullying really does all but disappear for these kids. (AP Photo/File)

For the past two years, we’ve been hearing the message from all corners. “It gets better.”

From the athletes of the Seattle Mariners and the Seahawks to the men and women of the Seattle Police Department, the idea that life will get better for gay teens who are bullied has spread across the Internet like wildfire.

Up until now, this idea has really just been anecdotal. Now, there’s some hard science that shows it’s true.

“Over half of LGB youth in our sample were bullied when they were 13 years old, but fewer than 10 percent were bullied when they were 19 to 20 years old,” says University of Illinois researcher Joseph Robinson.

Robinson co-authored a study that looked at 187 lesbian, gay and bisexual teens along with about 4,000 other students over seven years ending in 2010.

In the first year of their study, the kids who said they were gay were bullied the most. That slowly changed over time. The researchers noticed what they called a “sea change” in the cultural acceptance of gays and a growing intolerance for bullying.

Another interesting result showed just how different things are for boys and girls. Robinson says as they got older, girls who identify as gay or bisexual seemed to be more accepted. Gay boys continued to be bullied even as young adults.

“During high school, LGB youth are bullied more than straight youth, regardless of gender,” Robinson explains. “After high school, lesbian and bisexual females are bullied only as often as straight females. Rates of bullying increase for gay and bisexual males.”

About half of the gay and bisexual teens say they were bullied in high school. That number dropped to 9 percent for gay boys and 6 percent for girls by the time they were 19 or 20 years old.

Researchers think it may be that masculine traits are more accepted in women than feminine traits are in men.

This study looked at teens in England, but the head of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network says she’s seen similar results during her anti-bullying work in the U.S.

This study appears online in the Pediatrics journal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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