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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adolescent School Victimization: Implications for Young Adult Health and Adjustment

Authors


  • The initial research for this study was supported by the California Endowment. We thank the many adolescents, families, and young adults who shared their lives and experiences with us. We also thank Laurie Bechhofer, MPH, for her insightful comments and the anonymous reviewers for enhancing our work.

Stephen T. Russell, Distinguished Professor, Fitch Nesbitt Endowed Chair, (strussell@arizona.edu), Family Studies and Human Development, University of Arizona, 650 North Park Ave., PO Box 210078, Tucson, AZ 85721-0078.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Adolescent school victimization due to lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) status is commonplace, and is associated with compromised health and adjustment. Few studies have examined the long-term implications of LGBT school victimization for young adult adjustment. We examine the association between reports of LGBT school victimization and young adult psychosocial health and risk behavior.

METHODS: The young adult survey from the Family Acceptance Project included 245 LGBT young adults between the ages of 21 and 25 years, with an equal proportion of Latino and non-Latino White respondents. A 10-item retrospective scale assessed school victimization due to actual or perceived LGBT identity between the ages of 13 and 19 years. Multiple regression was used to test the association between LGBT school victimization and young adult depression, suicidal ideation, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and social integration, while controlling for background characteristics. Logistic regression was used to examine young adult suicide attempts, clinical levels of depression, heavy drinking and substance use problems, sexually transmitted disease (STD) diagnoses, and self-reported HIV risk.

RESULTS: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-related school victimization is strongly linked to young adult mental health and risk for STDs and HIV; there is no strong association with substance use or abuse. Elevated levels of depression and suicidal ideation among males can be explained by their high rates of LGBT school victimization.

CONCLUSIONS: Reducing LGBT-related school victimization will likely result in significant long-term health gains and will reduce health disparities for LGBT people. Reducing the dramatic disparities for LGBT youth should be educational and public health priorities.

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