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

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to David M. Huebner.

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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

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Keywords

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