American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 421–448 | Cite as

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

  • Anthony R. D'Augelli
  • Scott L. Hershberger


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.

Key words

sexual orientation lesbian, gay, bisexual, youth suicide 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bell, A. P., & Weinberg, M. S. (1978).Homosexualities: A study of diversity among men and women. New York: Simon and Shuster.Google Scholar
  2. Boulet, J., & Boss, M. W. (1991). Reliability and validity of the Brief Symptom Inventory.Psychological Assessment, 3, 433–437.Google Scholar
  3. Boxer, A. M., & Cohler, B. J. (1989). The life course of gay and lesbian youth: An immodest proposal for the study of lives.Journal of Homosexuality, 17, 315–355.Google Scholar
  4. Boxer, A. M., Cook, J. A., & Herdt, G. (1991). Double jeopardy: Identity transitions and parent-child relations among gay and lesbian youth. In K. Pillemer & K. McCartney (Eds.),Parent-child relations throughout life (pp. 59–92). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Broday, S. F., & Mason, J. L. (1991). Internal consistency of the Brief Symptom Inventory for counseling-center clients.Psychological Reports, 68, 94.Google Scholar
  6. D'Augelli, A. R. (1989). The development of a helping community for lesbians and gay men: A case study in community psychology.Journal of Community Psychology, 17, 18–29.Google Scholar
  7. D'Augelli, A. R. (1991). Gay men in college: Identity processes and adaptations.Journal of College Student Development, 32, 140–146.Google Scholar
  8. D'Augelli, A. R. (1992). Lesbian and gay male undergraduates' experiences of harassment and fear on campus.Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7, 383–395.Google Scholar
  9. D'Augelli, A. R. (1993). Preventing mental health problems among lesbian and gay college students.Journal of Primary Prevention, 13(4), 1–17.Google Scholar
  10. Dean, L., Wu, S., & Martin, J. L. (1992). Trends in violence and discrimination against gay men in New York City: 1984 to 1990. In G. M. Herek & K. T. Berrill (Eds.),Hate crimes: Confronting violence against lesbians and gay men (pp. 46–64). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Derogatis, L. R., & Spencer, P. M. (1982).The Brief Symptom Inventory: Administration, scoring, and procedures manual. Towson, MD: Clinical Psychometric Research, Inc.Google Scholar
  12. Friedman, J. M., Asnis, G. M., Boeck, M., & DiFiore, J. (1987). Prevalence of specific suicidal behaviors in a high school sample.American Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 1203–1206.Google Scholar
  13. Garland, A. F., & Zigler, E. (1993). Adolescent suicide prevention: Current research and social policy implications.American Psychologist, 48, 169–182.Google Scholar
  14. Garnets, L. D., & D'Augelli, A. R. (in press). Empowering lesbian and gay communities: A call for collaboration with community psychology.American Journal of Community Psychology.Google Scholar
  15. Garnets, L., Herek, G. M., & Levy, B. (1990). Violence and victimization of lesbians and gay men: Mental health consequences.Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5, 366–383.Google Scholar
  16. Garnets, L., & Kimmel, D. (1991). Lesbian and gay male dimensions in the psychological study of human diversity. In J. Goodchilds (Ed.),Psychological perspectives on human diversity in America (pp. 143–192). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  17. Gerstel, C. J., Feraios, A. J. & Herdt, G. (1989). Widening circles: An ethnographic profile of a youth group.Journal of Homosexuality, 17, 75–92.Google Scholar
  18. Gibson, P. (1989). Gay male and lesbian youth suicide. In ADAMHA,Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide (Vol. 3, pp. 110–142). (DHHS Publication No. ADM 89-1623). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  19. Goldsmith, R. E. (1986). Dimensionality of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale.Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 1, 253–264.Google Scholar
  20. Gonsiorek, J. C. (1988). Mental health issues of gay and lesbian adolescents.Journal of Adolescent Health Care, 9, 114–122.Google Scholar
  21. Gonsiorek, J. C., & Rudolph J. R. (1991). Homosexual identity: Coming out and other developmental events. In J. C. Gonsiorek & J. D. Weinrich (Eds.),Homosexuality: Research implications for public policy (pp. 161–176). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  22. Harry, J. (1986). Sampling gay men.Journal of Sex Research, 22, 21–34.Google Scholar
  23. Herdt, G. (1989). Gay and lesbian youth: Emergent identities and cultural scenes at home and abroad.Journal of Homosexuality, 17, 1–42.Google Scholar
  24. Hetrick. E. S., & Martin, A. D. (1987). Developmental issues and their resolution for gay and lesbian adolescents.Journal of Homosexuality, 14, 25–43.Google Scholar
  25. Hunter, J. (1990). Violence against lesbian and gay male youth.Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5, 295–300.Google Scholar
  26. Hunter, J., & Schaecher, R. (1987). Stresses on lesbian and gay adolescents in schools.Social Work in Education, 9, 180–190.Google Scholar
  27. Malyon, A. K. (1981). The homosexual adolescent: Development issues and social bias.Child Welfare, 60, 321–330.Google Scholar
  28. Mapou, R. L., Ayres, J., & Cole, S. P. (1983). An analysis of problem areas and counseling experiences of gay white males.American Journal of Community Psychology, 11, 323–336.Google Scholar
  29. Martin, A. D., & Hetrick, E. S. (1988). The stigmatization of the gay and lesbian adolescent.Journal of Homosexuality, 15, 163–184.Google Scholar
  30. National Lesbian and Gay Health Foundation (1987).National Lesbian Health Care Survey: Mental health implications. Unpublished report submitted to the National Institute of Mental Health. Atlanta, GA: Author.Google Scholar
  31. O'Brien, E. J. (1985). Global self-esteem scales: Unidimensional or multidimensional?Psychological Reports, 57, 383–389.Google Scholar
  32. Plummer, K. (1989). Lesbian and gay youth in England.Journal of Homosexuality, 17, 195–223.Google Scholar
  33. Preston, J. (1991).The big gay book. New York: Plume.Google Scholar
  34. Remafedi, G. (1987a). Adolescent homosexuality: Psychosocial and medical implications.Pediatrics, 79, 331–337.Google Scholar
  35. Remafedi, G. (1987b). Male homosexuality: The adolescent's perspective.Pediatrics, 79, 326–330.Google Scholar
  36. Remafedi, G. (1987c). Homosexual youth: A challenge to contemporary society.Journal of the American Medical Association, 258, 222–225.Google Scholar
  37. Remafedi, G., Farrow, J. A., & Deisher, R. W. (1991). Risk factors for attempted suicide in gay and bisexual youth.Pediatrics, 87, 869–875.Google Scholar
  38. Roesler, T., & Deisher, R. (1972). Youthful male homosexuality.Journal of the American Medical Association, 219, 1018–1023.Google Scholar
  39. Rosenberg, M. (1965).Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Rosenberg, M. (1979).Conceiving the self. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  41. Ross-Reynolds, G., & Hardy, B. S. (1985). Crisis counseling for disparate adolescent sexual dilemmas: Pregnancy and homosexuality.School Psychology Review, 14, 300–312.Google Scholar
  42. Savin-Williams, R. C. (1990).Gay and lesbian youth: Expressions of identity. New York: Hemisphere.Google Scholar
  43. Savin-Williams, R. C. (in press). Lesbian, gay male, and bisexual adolescents. In A. R. D'Augelli & C. J. Patterson (Eds.),Lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities across the lifespan. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Schneider, M. (1989). Sappho was a right-on adolescent: Growing up lesbian.Journal of Homosexuality, 17, 111–130.Google Scholar
  45. Schneider, M. (1991). Developing services for lesbian and gay adolescents.Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 10, 133–151.Google Scholar
  46. Schneider, S. G., Farberow, N. L., & Kruks, G. N. (1989). Suicidal behavior in adolescent and young adult gay men.Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 19, 381–394.Google Scholar
  47. Slater, B. R. (1988). Essential issues in working with lesbian and gay male youths.Professional Psychology, 19, 226–235.Google Scholar
  48. Smith, K., & Crawford, S. (1986). Suicidal behavior among “normal” high school students.Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 16, 313–325.Google Scholar
  49. Strommen, E. F. (1989a). Hidden branches and growing pains: Homosexuality and the family tree.Marriage and Family Review, 14, 9–34.Google Scholar
  50. Strommen, E. F. (1989b). “You're a what?”: Family members' reactions to the disclosure of homosexuality.Journal of Homosexuality, 18, 37–58.Google Scholar
  51. Uribe, V., & Harbeck, K. M. (1991). Addressing the needs of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth: The origins of Project 10 and school-based intervention.Journal of Homosexuality, 22, 9–28.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony R. D'Augelli
    • 1
  • Scott L. Hershberger
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family StudiesThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity Park
  2. 2.Center for Developmental and Health Research MethodologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations