Adolescents’ Acceptance of Same-Sex Peers Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression

Abstract

This study investigated tenth- and twelfth-grade adolescents’ (N ≤ 264) judgments about the acceptability of same-sex peers who varied in terms of their sexual orientation (straight, gay or lesbian) and their conformity to gender conventions or norms in regard appearance and mannerisms or activity. Overall, the results of this study suggest that adolescents’ conceptions of the acceptability of their peers are related not just to sexual orientation but also conformity to gender conventions. Both straight and gay or lesbian individuals who were non-conventional in their appearance and mannerisms were rated as less acceptable than individuals who conformed to gender conventions or those who participated in non-conventional activities. Most surprisingly, for boys, the straight individual who was non-conforming in appearance was rated less acceptable than either the gay individual who conformed to gender norms or was gender non-conforming in choice of activity.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Because we were not allowed to obtain any demographic information on the students who did not return permission forms we were unable to compare this group to the participants in the study. Additionally, we don’t know if the students not returning their forms simply forgot about it or selected themselves out of the study for some other reason. In classes in which teachers required that students return the form as part of their course participation the response rate was close to 100%. In classes where this was not the case the response rate was typically lower than 30%. While this may suggest that a majority of students simply neglected to return their form, it is possible that some students selected themselves out for other reasons, thus, our sample may be biased toward individual students and families who are more accepting of same-sex sexualities.

  2. 2.

    This study is part of a larger study investigating adolescents’ beliefs about homosexuality, their attitudes toward gay and lesbian peers, and their evaluations of the treatment of others based on gender expression and sexual orientation. For additional reports from this study (see Horn and Nucci 2003; Horn, 2004). For a copy of the complete questionnaire, contact the author.

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Acknowledgments

The research reported in this article was supported, in part, by grants from the Wayne F. Placek Fund of the American Psychological Foundation and a University of Illinois at Chicago Campus Research Board awarded to the author and Larry Nucci.

I would like to thank Larry Nucci for his help and feedback on the manuscript. Additionally, I thank Jessica Rosenwein, Anna Kurtz, and Mary Kachiroubas for assistance with data collection and data entry.

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Correspondence to Staccy S. Horn.

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Associate professor of Educational Psychology and Human Development in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research interests are peer exclusion and harassment in adolescence and the ways in which adolescents apply their social and moral knowledge to understanding these issues. Additionally, Dr. Horn is interested in school climate issues for gay, lesbian, and gender non-conforming youth and is currently conducting an evaluation of a school based program aimed at reducing anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender violence. She is particularly committed to bringing research-based evidence to bear on issues related to creating safe schools for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. Her research has been published in journals such as Developmental Psychology and the Journal of Early Adolescence.

An erratum to this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10964-007-9176-4.

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Horn, S.S. Adolescents’ Acceptance of Same-Sex Peers Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression. J Youth Adolescence 36, 363–371 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-006-9111-0

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Keywords

  • Peer acceptance
  • Sexual orientation and gender conformity
  • Social cognition