School Victimization and Substance Use Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adolescents


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) adolescents are at increased risk for substance use, relative to their heterosexual counterparts. Although previous research has demonstrated that experiences of anti-LGBT harassment, discrimination, and victimization may explain some of this disparity, little is known about the mechanisms whereby such mistreatment leads to substance abuse. This study aimed to examine whether mechanisms suggested by the Social Development Model might explain the links between school-based victimization and substance use in this population. Five hundred and four ethnically diverse LGBT adolescents ages 14–19 reported their experiences with school victimization, substance abuse, school bonding, and deviant peer group affiliation. Anti-LGBT victimization in school was associated with substance abuse, and although causality cannot be established, structural equation modeling confirmed that the data are consistent with a theoretical model in which this association was mediated by increased affiliation with deviant peers. Preventive interventions for LGBT adolescents must not only attempt to make schools safer for these youth, but also help keep them engaged in healthy peer groups when they are confronted with mistreatment in school.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    We also informally tested whether this model was invariant across ethnic groups (i.e., White, African American, and Mixed ethnicity) by constructing separate models by group. Although power was insufficient to conduct a formal multiple group SEM, no obvious ethnic differences in model paths were observed.


  1. Almeida, J., Johnson, R. M., Corliss, H. L., Molnar, B. E., & Azrael, D. (2009). Emotional distress among lgbt youth: The influence of perceived discrimination based on sexual orientation. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 1001–1014.

  2. Anderson, J. C., & Gerbing, D. W. (1988). Structural equation modeling in practice: A review and recommended two-step approach. Psychological Bulletin, 103, 411–423. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.103.3.411.

  3. Arthur, M. W., Hawkins, J. D., Pollard, J. A., Catalano, R. F., & Baglioni, A. J., Jr. (2002). Measuring risk and protective factors for substance use, delinquency, and other adolescent problem behaviors. The communities that care youth survey. Evaluation Review, 26, 575–601.

  4. Bentler, P. M., & Bonnett, D. G. (1980). Significance tests and goodness of fit in the analysis of covariance structures. Psychological Bulletin, 88, 588–606.

  5. Birkett, M., Espelage, D. L., & Koenig, B. (2009). LGB and questioning students in schools: The moderating effects of homophobic bullying and school climate on negative outcomes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 989–1000.

  6. Blake, S. M., Ledsky, R., Lehman, T., Goodenow, C., Sawyer, R., & Hack, T. (2001). Preventing sexual risk behaviors among gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents: The benefits of gay-sensitive HIV instruction in schools. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 940–946.

  7. Bollen, K. A., & Bauldry, S. (2011). Three Cs in measurement models: Causal indicators, composite indicators, and covariates. Psychological Methods, 16, 265–284. doi:10.1037/a0024448.

  8. Bollen, K. A., & Long, J. S. (1993). Testing Structural Equation Models. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

  9. Bontempo, D. E., & D’augelli, A. R. (2002). Effects of at-school victimization and sexual orientation on lesbian, gay, or bisexual youths’ health risk behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health, 30, 364–374.

  10. Browne, M. W., & Cudek, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136–162). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

  11. Catalano, R. F., Kosterman, R., Hawkins, J. D., Newcomb, M. D., & Abbott, R. D. (1996). Modeling the etiology of adolescent substance use: A test of the social development model. Journal of Drug Issues, 26, 429–455.

  12. Darwich, L., Hymel, S., & Waterhouse, T. (2012). School avoidance and substance use among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning youths: The impact of peer victimization and adult support. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 381–392. doi:10.1037/a0026684.

  13. D’augelli, A. R., Pilkington, N. W., & Hershberger, S. L. (2002). Incidence and mental health impact of sexual orientation victimization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths in high school. School Psychology Quarterly, 17, 148–167.

  14. Diamond, L. M. (2003). New paradigms for research on heterosexual and sexual-minority development. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 32, 490–498. doi:10.1207/S15374424JCCP3204_1.

  15. Dishion, T. J., Patterson, G. R., Stoolmiller, M., & Skinner, M. L. (1991). Family, school, and behavioral antecedents to early adolescent involvement with antisocial peers. Developmental Psychology, 27, 172–180. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.27.1.172.

  16. Espelage, D. L., Aragon, S. R., & Birkett, M. (2008). Homophobic teasing, psychological outcomes, and sexual orientation among high school students: What influence do parents and schools have? School Psychology Review, 37, 202–216.

  17. Faulkner, A. H., & Cranston, K. (1998). Correlates of same-sex sexual behavior in a random sample of Massachusetts high school students. American Journal of Public Health, 88, 262–266.

  18. Fergusson, D. M., Swain-Campbell, N. R., & Horwood, L. J. (2002). Deviant peer affiliations, crime and substance use: A fixed effects regression analysis. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30, 419–430. doi:10.1023/a:1015774125952.

  19. Ford, J. D., Elhai, J. D., Connor, D. F., & Frueh, B. C. (2010). Poly-victimization and risk of posttraumatic, depressive, and substance use disorders and involvement in delinquency in a national sample of adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 46, 545–552.

  20. Garofalo, R., Wolf, R. C., Kessel, S., Palfrey, S. J., & Durant, R. H. (1998). The association between health risk behaviors and sexual orientation among a school-based sample of adolescents. Pediatrics, 101, 895–902.

  21. Glaser, R. R., Horn, M. L. V., Arthur, M. W., Hawkins, J. D., & Catalano, R. F. (2005). Measurement properties of the "Communities That Care" Youth Survey across demographic groups. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 21, 73–102. doi:10.1007/s10940-004-1788-1.

  22. GLSEN. (2010). 2009 National School Climate Survey. New York, NY: GLSEN.

  23. Harris Interactive and GLSEN (2005). From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, A Survey of Students and Teachers. New York, NY: GLSEN.

  24. Harris, K. M., Halpern, C. T., Whitsel, E., Hussey, J., Tabor, J., Entzel, P., & J.R., U. (2009). The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health: Research design. Retrieved February 9, 2001, 2011, from

  25. Hatzenbuehler, M. L. (2009). How does sexual minority stigma “get under the skin?” A psychological mediation framework. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 707–730. doi:10.1037/a0016441.

  26. Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Corbin, W. R., & Fromme, K. (2008). Trajectories and determinants of alcohol use among LGB young adults and their heterosexual peers: Results from a prospective study. Developmental Psychology, 44, 81–90.

  27. Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Corbin, W. R., & Fromme, K. (2011). Discrimination and alcohol-related problems among college students: A prospective examination of mediating effects. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 115, 213–220. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.11.002.

  28. Hawkins, J. D., & Weis, J. G. (1985). The social development model: An integrated approach to delinquency prevention. The Journal Of Primary Prevention, 6, 73–97. doi:10.1007/bf01325432.

  29. Hershberger, S. L., & D’augelli, A. R. (1995). The impact of victimization on the mental health and suicidality of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths. Developmental Psychology, 31, 65–74.

  30. Hoglund, W. G. (2007). School functioning in early adolescence: Gender-linked responses to peer victimization. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99.

  31. Institute of Medicine. (2011). The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

  32. Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., & Diaz, E. M. (2009). Who, what, where, when, and why: Demographic and ecological factors contributing to hostile school climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 976–988.

  33. Litwiller, B. J., & Brausch, A. M. (2013). Cyber bullying and physical bullying in adolescent suicide: The role of violent behavior and substance use. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42, 675–684. doi:10.1007/s10964-013-9925-5.

  34. Luk, J. W., Wang, J., & Simons-Morton, B. G. (2010). Bullying victimization and substance use among U.S. adolescents: Mediation by depression. Prevention Science, 11, 355–359. doi:10.1007/s11121-010-0179-0.

  35. Mackinnon, D. P., Lockwood, C. M., & Williams, J. (2004). Confidence limits for the indirect effect: Distribution of the product and resampling methods. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 39, 99–128.

  36. Maddox, S. J., & Prinz, R. J. (2003). School bonding in children and adolescents: Conceptualization, assessment, and associated variables. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 6, 31–49. doi:10.1023/a:1022214022478.

  37. Marshal, M. P., Friedman, M. S., Stall, R., King, K. M., Miles, J., Gold, M. A., Bukstein, O. G., & Morse, J. Q. (2008). Sexual orientation and adolescent substance use: A meta-analysis and methodological review. Addiction, 103, 546–556.

  38. Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129, 674–697.

  39. Murdock, T. B., & Bolch, M. B. (2005). Risk and protective factors for poor school adjustment in lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) high school youth: Variable and person-centered analyses. Psychology in the Schools, 42, 159–172.

  40. Muthen, L. K., & Muthen, B. (2006). Mplus user’s guide. Los Angeles, CA: Muthen and Muthen, Inc.

  41. Pachankis, J. E., & Hatzenbuehler, M. L. (2013). The social development of contingent self-worth among sexual minority young men: An empirical test of the "best little boy in the world" hypothesis. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 35, 176–190.

  42. Pascoe, E. A., & Smart Richman, L. (2009). Perceived discrimination and health: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 531–554. doi:10.1037/a0016059.

  43. Popp, A. M., & Peguero, A. A. (2012). Social bonds and the role of school-based victimization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27, 3366–3388.

  44. Purnell, J. Q., Peppone, L. J., Alcaraz, K., Mcqueen, A., Guido, J. J., Carroll, J. K., Shacham, E., & Morrow, G. R. (2012). Perceived discrimination, psychological distress, and current smoking status: Results from the behavioral risk factor surveillance system reactions to race module, 2004–2008. American Journal of Public Health, 102, 844–851. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300694.

  45. Radliff, K. M., Wheaton, J. E., Robinson, K., & Morris, J. (2012). Illuminating the relationship between bullying and substance use among middle and high school youth. Addictive Behaviors, 37, 569–572. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2012.01.001.

  46. Ripiski, M. B., & Gregory, A. (2009). Unfair, unsafe, and unwelcome: Do high school students’ perceptions of unfairness, hostility, and victimization in school predict engagement and achievement? Journal of School Violence, 8, 355–375.

  47. Rostosky, S. S., Owens, G. P., Zimmerman, R. S., & Riggle, E. D. B. (2003). Associations among sexual attraction status, school belonging, and alcohol and marijuana use in rural high school students. Journal of Adolescence, 26, 741–751. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2003.09.002.

  48. Rusby, J. C., Forrester, K. K., Biglan, A., & Metzler, C. W. (2005). Relationships between peer harassment and adolescent problem behaviors. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 25, 453–477.

  49. Russell, S. T., Franz, B. T., & Driscoll, A. K. (2001a). Same-sex romantic attraction and experiences of violence in adolescence. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 903–906.

  50. Russell, S. T., Seif, H., & Truong, N. L. (2001b). School outcomes of sexual minority youth in the United States: Evidence from a national study. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 111–127. doi:10.1006/jado.2000.0365.

  51. Russell, S. T., Driscoll, A. K., & Truong, N. (2002). Adolescent same-sex romantic attractions and relationships: Implications for substance use and abuse. American Journal of Public Health, 92, 198–202.

  52. Ryan, C., Huebner, D., Diaz, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in White and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics, 123, 346–352.

  53. SAMHSA. (2005). CSAP GPRA Drug and Alcohol Use—Youth. Retrieved March 11, 2011, 2011, from

  54. Supple, A. J., Aquilino, W. S., & Wright, D. L. (1999). Collecting sensitive self-report data with laptop computers: Impact on the response tendencies. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 9, 467.

  55. Toomey, R. B., Ryan, C., Diaz, R. M., Card, N. A., & Russell, S. T. (2010). Gender-nonconforming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: School victimization and young adult psychosocial adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1580–1589. doi:10.1037/a0020705.

  56. Turner, P. J., & Gervai, J. (1995). A multidimensional study of gender typing in preschool children and their parents: Personality, attitudes, preferences, behavior, and cultural differences. Developmental Psychology, 31, 759–772.

  57. Wiehe, S. E., Aalsma, M. C., Liu, G. C., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Gender differences in the association between perceived discrimination and adolescent smoking. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 510–516. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.169771.

  58. Yu, C. Y. (2002). Evaluating cutoff criteria of model fit indices for latent variable models with binary and continuous outcomes. (Ph. D. Dissertation), University of Califorina, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA.

Download references


This research was supported by grant MH072381 from the National Institute for Mental Health. The authors would like to acknowledge Jordan Rullo, Jennifer Pritchard, Karen Wohlleiter for their efforts in study coordination, as well as Laura Vaughn, Lida Rogers, and Trevor Wright for their assistance with data collection. We are grateful to the Attic Youth Center, BAGLY, and Indiana Youth Group for their cooperation in housing the project. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Utah.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Author information

Correspondence to David M. Huebner.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Huebner, D.M., Thoma, B.C. & Neilands, T.B. School Victimization and Substance Use Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adolescents. Prev Sci 16, 734–743 (2015) doi:10.1007/s11121-014-0507-x

Download citation


  • Lesbian
  • Gay
  • Bisexual
  • Transgender
  • Substance abuse
  • Discrimination
  • Victimization
  • Bullying