, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 421-448

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in community settings: Personal challenges and mental health problems

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Abstract

Studied 194 lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth aged 21 and younger who attended programs in 14 community centers to determine the personal challenges they face due to their sexual orientation and their responses to these stresses. First awareness of sexual orientation typically occurred at age 10, but disclosure to another person did not occur until about age 16. There was much variability in sexual behavior, and many youths reported both same-sex and opposite-sex sexual experiences. Although most had told at least one family member about their sexual orientation, there remained much concern about family reactions. Suicide attempts were acknowledged by 42% of the sample. Attempters significantly differed from nonattempters on several milestones of sexual orientation development, social aspects of sexual orientation, parents' knowledge of sexual orientation, and mental health problems.

The following organizations participated in this project and are thanked for their assistance: Affirmations (Detroit), the Atlanta Gay Center, Baltimore Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth, Gay Alternative Youth (Pittsburgh), the Gay and Lesbian Youth Association of Dallas, Gay Youth Alliance — San Diego, the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center of Los Angeles, Horizons Community Services (Chicago), the Indianapolis Youth Group, the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center of Cleveland, Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (San Francisco), Outright (Denver), and Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (Washington, DC). The following individuals associated with these groups are gratefully thanked for their help: Danny Barutta, Adriene Corbin, Tom Eversole, Chris Gonzalez, Bill Gripp, Rory Lopez, Phil Rector, Jamie Schield, Cheryl Schwartz, Jan Stephenson, Sterling Stowell, Amy Vitro, and Aubrey Wertheim. Gene Thomas is thanked for helping with data collection, as are Michael LaFlam, Patrick McNamara, and Mark Shiner, who processed the surveys. We also thank Rainer Silbereisen for his comments. This project was supported by funds from the Center for the Study of Child and Adolescent Development of the College of Health and Human Development at Pennsylvania State University.