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Keywords:

  • pediatrics;
  • psychology;
  • alcohol;
  • lesbian;
  • gay;
  • bisexual;
  • sexual orientation;
  • adolescence

Abstract

Sexual minority girls (SMGs) are four times more likely to engage in substance use than are heterosexual girls. A better understanding of the explanatory mechanisms of this disparity is needed to inform prevention and intervention programs. The goal of this study was to conduct a preliminary test of a “stress-negative affect” pathway by examining gay-related victimization and depression as mediators of substance use among SMGs. Adolescent girls (N = 156, 41% SMGs) were recruited from two urban adolescent medicine clinics to participate in an NIH-funded study of adolescent substance use. The average age was 17.0 years old and 57% were nonwhite. Mediation analyses were conducted in a multiple regression framework using SPSS and a mediation macro utilizing bias-corrected bootstrapping. Four models were estimated to test mediated pathways from sexual orientation to gay-related victimization (Mediator 1), to depression symptoms (Mediator 2), and then to each of four substance use variables: cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, and heavy alcohol use. Significant mediated pathways (mediation tests with 95% CIs) were found for cigarette, alcohol and heavy alcohol use outcome variables. Results provide preliminary support for the minority stress hypothesis and the stress-negative affect pathway, and may inform the development of future prevention and intervention programs.