Advertisement

Does It Get Better? A Longitudinal Analysis of Psychological Distress and Victimization in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth

      Abstract

      Purpose

      The mental health and victimization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth have garnered media attention with the “It Gets Better Project.” Despite this popular interest, there is an absence of empirical evidence evaluating a possible developmental trajectory in LGBTQ distress and the factors that might influence distress over time.

      Methods

      This study used an accelerated longitudinal design and multilevel modeling to examine a racially/ethnically diverse analytic sample of 231 LGBTQ adolescents aged 16–20 years at baseline, across six time points, and over 3.5 years.

      Results

      Results indicated that both psychological distress and victimization decreased across adolescence and into early adulthood. Furthermore, time-lagged analyses and mediation analyses suggested that distress was related to prior experiences of victimization, with greater victimization leading to greater distress. Support received from parents, peers, and significant others was negatively correlated with psychological distress in the cross-sectional model but did not reach significance in the time-lagged model.

      Conclusions

      Analyses suggest that psychological distress might “get better” when adolescents encounter less victimization and adds to a growing literature indicating that early experiences of stress impact the mental health of LGBTQ youth.

      Keywords

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'

      Subscribe:

      Subscribe to Journal of Adolescent Health
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect

      References

      1. McKinley, J., Suicides put light on pressures of gay teenagers, in The New York Times. 2010, The New York Times Company: New York.

      2. Savage, D. It Gets Better Project. 2012 May 1, 2011; Available at: http://www.itgetsbetter.org/. Accessed May 1, 2011.

        • Institute of Medicine
        The health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people: Building a foundation for better understanding.
        2011 (The National Academies Press. Washington, DC.)
        • Bontempo D.E.
        • D'Augelli A.R.
        Effects of at-school victimization and sexual orientation on lesbian, gay, or bisexual youths' health risk behavior.
        J Adolesc Health. 2002; 30: 364-374
        • Garofalo R.
        • Wolf R.C.
        • Kessel S.
        • et al.
        The association between health risk behaviors and sexual orientation among a school-based sample of adolescents.
        Pediatrics. 1998; 101: 895-902
        • Hershberger S.L.
        • D'Augelli A.R.
        The impact of victimization on the mental health and suicidality of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth.
        Dev Psychol. 1995; 31: 65-74
        • Remafedi G.
        • French S.
        • Story M.
        • et al.
        The relationship between suicide risk and sexual orientation: Results of a population-based study.
        Am J Public Health. 1998; 88: 57-60
        • Fergusson D.M.
        • Horwood L.J.
        • Beautrais A.L.
        Is sexual orientation related to mental health problems and suicidality in young people?.
        Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999; 56: 876-880
        • Meyer I.H.
        Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence.
        Psychol Bull. 2003; 129: 674-697
        • Hatzenbuehler M.L.
        How does sexual minority stigma “get under the skin?” A psychological mediation framework.
        Psychol Bull. 2009; 135: 707-730
        • D'Augelli A.R.
        • Grossman A.H.
        • Salter N.P.
        • et al.
        Predicting the suicide attempts of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth.
        Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2005; 35: 646-660
        • McDaniel J.S.
        • Purcell D.
        • D'Augelli A.R.
        The relationship between sexual orientation and risk for suicide: Research findings and future directions for research and prevention.
        Suicide Life Threat Behav. 2001; 31: 84-105
        • Birkett M.
        • Espelage D.L.
        • Koenig B.
        LGB and questioning students in schools: The moderating effects of homophobic bullying and school climate on negative outcomes.
        J Youth Adolesc. 2009; 38: 989-1000
        • Rosario M.
        • Schrimshaw E.W.
        • Hunter J.
        • Braun L.
        Sexual identity development among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths: Consistency and change over time.
        J Sex Res. 2006; 43: 46-58
        • Bauermeister J.A.
        • Johns M.M.
        • Sandfort T.G.M.
        • et al.
        Relationship trajectories and psychological well-being among sexual minority youth.
        J Youth Adolesc. 2010; 39: 1148-1163
        • Rosario M.
        • Schrimshaw E.W.
        • Hunter J.
        • Gwadz M.
        Gay-related stress and emotional distress among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths: A longitudinal examination.
        J Consult Clin Psychol. 2002; 70: 967-975
        • Nansel T.R.
        • Overpeck M.
        • Pilla R.S.
        Bullying behaviors among U.S. youth: Prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment.
        JAMA. 2001; 285: 2094-2100
        • Vincke J.
        • Van Heeringen K.
        Confidant support and the mental wellbeing of lesbian and gay young adults: A longitudinal analysis.
        J Community Appl Soc Psychol. 2002; 12: 181-193
        • Kimmel M.S.
        Masculinity as homophobia: Fear, shame and silence in the construction of gender identity.
        in: Gergen M.M. Davis S.N. Toward a new psychology of gender. Taylor & Frances/Routledge, Florence, KY1997: 223-242
        • Pleck J.H.
        • Sonenstein F.O.L.
        • Ku L.C.
        Attitudes toward male roles among adolescent males—A discriminant validity analysis.
        Sex Roles. 1994; 30: 481-501
        • Lemelle Jr., A.J.
        • Battle J.
        Black masculinity matters in attitudes toward gay males.
        J Homosex. 2004; 47: 39-51
        • Poteat V.P.
        • Aragon S.R.
        • Espelage D.L.
        • Koenig B.W.
        Psychosocial concerns of sexual minority youth: Complexity and caution in group differences.
        J Consult Clin Psychol. 2009; 77: 196-201
        • MacKinnon D.P.
        Introduction to statistical mediation analysis. Multivariate applications series.
        Taylor & Francis Group/Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New York, NY2008 (x, 477)
        • Mustanski B.S.
        • Garofalo R.
        • Emerson E.M.
        Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths.
        Am J Public Health. 2010; 100: 2426-2432
        • Mustanski B.
        • Liu R.T.
        A longitudinal study of predictors of suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.
        Arch Sex Behav. 2013; 42: 437-448
        • Tonry M.
        • Ohlin L.E.
        • Farrington D.P.
        Human development and criminal behavior: New ways of advancing knowledge.
        Springer-Verlag Publishing, New York, NY1991 (x, 223)
        • Derogatis L.R.
        Administration, scoring and procedures manual.
        2000 (National Computer Systems. Minneapolis, MN)
        • Zabora J.
        • Brintzenhofeszoc K.
        • Jacobsen P.
        • et al.
        A new psychosocial screening instrument for use with cancer patients.
        Psychosomatics. 2001; 42: 241-246
        • Zimet G.D.
        • Powell S.S.
        • Farley G.K.
        • et al.
        Psychometric characteristics of the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support.
        J Pers Assess. 1990; 55: 610-617
        • Canty-Mitchell J.
        • Zimet G.D.
        Psychometric properties of the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support in urban adolescents.
        Am J Community Psychol. 2000; 28: 391-400
        • D'Augelli A.R.
        • Hershberger S.L.
        • Pilkington N.W.
        Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and their families: Disclosure of sexual orientation and its consequences.
        Am J Orthopsychiatry. 1998; 68 (discussion 372–5): 361-371
        • Raudenbush S.W.
        • Bryk A.S.
        Hierarchical linear models.
        Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks2002
        • MacKinnon D.
        • Fritz M.
        • Williams J.
        • Lockwood C.
        Distribution of the product confidence limits for the indirect effect: Program PRODCLIN.
        Behavior Research Methods. 2007; 39: 384-389
        • D'Augelli A.R.
        Developmental and contextual factors and mental health among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths.
        in: Omoto A.E. Kurtzman H.M. Sexual orientation and mental health: Examining identity and development in lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. APA Books, Washington, DC2006
        • Hatzenbuehler M.L.
        • McLaughlin K.A.
        • Keyes K.M.
        • Hasin D.S.
        The impact of institutional discrimination on psychiatric disorders in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: A prospective study.
        Am J Public Health. 2010; 100: 452-459
        • Mustanski B.
        • Newcomb M.
        • Garofalo R.
        Mental health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth: A developmental resiliency perspective.
        J Gay Lesbian Soc Serv. 2011; 23: 204-225
        • Ryan C.
        • Huebner D.
        • Diaz R.M.
        • Sanchez J.
        Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults.
        Pediatrics. 2009; 123: 346-352
        • Mustanski B.
        • Birkett M.
        • Greene G.J.
        • et al.
        The Association between Sexual Orientation Identity and Behavior Across Race/Ethnicity, Sex, and Age in a Probability Sample of High School Students.
        Am J Public Health. 2014; 10: 237-244
        • Saewyc E.
        • Poon C.
        • Wang N.
        • et al.
        Not yet equal: The health of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in BC.
        McCreary Centre Society, Vancouver, BC2007
        • Savin-Williams R.C.
        • Joyner K.
        • Rieger G.
        Prevalence and stability of self-reported sexual orientation identity during young adulthood.
        Arch Sex Behav. 2012; 41: 103-110