Image by Zackary Drucker for Broadly's Gender Spectrum Collection

Background: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) adolescents are at disproportionate risk of poor health experiences, outcomes and behaviors compared to their straight, cisgender peers. LGBTQ youth, however, are not a homogenous population; each has multiple social identities that affect the risk and protection they experience. Intersectionality refers to ways in which power and privilege are structured based on interrelated social positions (e.g. due to race/ethnicity, immigrant status, native language) and how individual experiences reflect processes that confer privilege and disadvantage. Mutually constitutive forms of social oppression (e.g., stigma simultaneously based on race/ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation) may differentially affect the health of LGBTQ people with multiple marginalized social positions. Living within these intersecting social positions may give rise to unique challenges as well as strengths that promote healthy development among youth.

This study: The proposed study addresses the following research question regarding LGBTQ adolescents (12-19 years old):

  • What differences exist in bullying, risk behaviors, emotional distress, and protective factors among youth with different social positions (i.e. racial/ethnic groups, immigrant experiences, and native language)?
  • How do differing protective factors and other characteristics explain the above outcomes among youth with different social positions?
  • What positive and negative experiences are particularly relevant to the overlapping, simultaneous production of inequalities by LGBTQ identity, race/ethnicity, immigration experiences, and native language?

Qualitative Research: The aim of this component is to conduct qualitative interviews with 64 to 80 LGBTQ youth from different social positions to more deeply understand quantitative findings and generate concrete, relevant recommendations for interventions. We will focus on up to four intersecting social positions where LGBTQ youth face the greatest disparities, as well as determining specific protective factors to “dig deep” beyond brief survey measures. Qualitative findings will provide critical information on interpersonal and community assets for the most vulnerable LGBTQ youth and how they can be bolstered for other young people.

Quantitative Research: The aim of this component is to conduct extensive analysis of three existing adolescent health datasets: the Minnesota Student Survey (N ~122,000), California Healthy Kids Survey (N ~1,042,000), and the LGBTQ National Teen Survey (N ~17,000). These datasets each have different samples, demographic profiles, and measures. We will test multiple hypotheses using both harmonized and parallel analyses.

This research is supported by the National Institutes on Minority Health and Health Disparities under Award Number R01MD015722.