Empirical Research

Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1243-1256

First online:

Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms and Suicidality Among Heterosexual and Sexual Minority Youth

  • Michael P. MarshalAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, University of Pittsburgh Email author 
  • , Sarah S. DermodyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh
  • , JeeWon CheongAffiliated withDepartment of Health Behavior, School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • , Chad M. BurtonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh
  • , Mark S. FriedmanAffiliated withDepartment of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh
  • , Frances ArandaAffiliated withCollege of Nursing-Health Systems Science, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • , Tonda L. HughesAffiliated withUIC National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Sexual minority youth report higher rates of depression and suicidality than do heterosexual youth. Little is known, however, about whether these disparities continue as youth transition into young adulthood. The primary goals of this study were to describe and compare trajectories of adolescent depressive symptoms and suicidality among sexual minority and heterosexual youth, examine differences in depressive symptoms and suicidality trajectories across sexual orientation subgroups, and determine whether there are gender differences in these longitudinal disparities. Four waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health were analyzed using latent curve modeling (N = 12,379; 53 % female). Results showed that the rates of depressive symptoms and suicidality in early adolescence were higher among sexual minority youth than among heterosexual youth, and that these disparities persisted over time as participants transitioned into young adulthood. Consistent with previous cross-sectional studies, the observed longitudinal disparities were largest for females and for bisexually-identified youth. Sexual minority youth may benefit from childhood and early adolescent prevention and intervention programs.


Sexual minority youth Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth Sexual orientation Depressive symptoms Suicidality Trajectories Latent growth curve modeling