Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 1494–1507 | Cite as

Individual Psychological Factors and Complex Interpersonal Conditions that Predict LGBT-Affirming Behavior

  • V. Paul PoteatEmail author
Empirical Research


To counter homophobic behavior in schools, research is needed on heterosexual youth who act as allies to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth by engaging in LGBT-affirming behavior (e.g., voicing support, engaging in advocacy, countering homophobia). Among 624 heterosexual high school students (M age = 16.11; 53 % female; 88 % white), this study found that critical thinking, self-reflection, lower sexual prejudice, having more LGBT friends, and having sexual orientation-based discussions with peers were associated with engaging in more LGBT-affirming behavior. Several factors moderated the association between having sexual orientation-based discussions and LGBT-affirming behavior: the association was stronger among youth who described the tone of these discussions as more positive, who more often used positive problem-solving strategies, and who reported low sexual prejudice. The degree to which conversations were challenging did not moderate this association. Finally, having LGBT friends was more strongly associated with affirming behavior for youth who felt more connected and had more sexual orientation-based discussions with these friends. The findings underscore the need for research to identify other factors that prompt heterosexual youth to act as allies to LGBT youth.


Allies Advocacy Prejudice Homophobia Bullying Intergroup contact Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender 



I would like to thank the participating school for their support of and involvement in this project. This project was completed in part with the financial support of a research expense grant awarded through Boston College.


  1. Aberson, C. L., & Haag, S. C. (2007). Contact, perspective taking, and anxiety as predictors of stereotype endorsement, explicit attitudes, and implicit attitudes. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 10, 179–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aboud, F. E. (1988). Children and prejudice. New York, NY: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  3. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  4. Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.Google Scholar
  5. Berndt, T. J. (2002). Friendship quality and social development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 7–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bigler, R. S., & Liben, L. S. (2006). A developmental intergroup theory of social stereotypes and prejudice. In R. Kail (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 34, pp. 39–89). New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bigler, R. S., & Wright, Y. F. (2014). Reading, writing, arithmetic, and racism? Risks and benefits to teaching children about intergroup biases. Child Development Perspectives, 8, 18–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Birkett, M., & Espelage, D. L. (2015). Homophobic name-calling, peer groups, and masculinity: The socialization of homophobic behavior in adolescents. Social Development, 24, 184–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brechwald, W. A., & Prinstein, M. J. (2011). Beyond homophily: A decade of advances in understanding peer influence processes. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21, 166–179.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Broido, E. M. (2000). The development of social justice allies during college: A phenomenological investigation. Journal of College Student Development, 41, 3–18.Google Scholar
  11. Burton, C. M., Marshal, M. P., Chisolm, D. J., Sucato, G. S., & Friedman, M. S. (2013). Sexual minority-related victimization as a mediator of mental health disparities in sexual minority youth: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42, 394–402.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Collins, W. A., & Steinberg, L. (2008). Adolescent development in interpersonal context. In N. Eisenberg, W. Damon, & R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3, social, emotional, and personality development (6th ed., pp. 1003–1067). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  13. Costa, P. T, Jr., & McCrea, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  14. de Wied, M., Branje, S. J. T., & Meeus, W. H. J. (2007). Empathy and conflict resolution in friendship relations among adolescents. Aggressive Behavior, 33, 48–55.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dessel, A., & Rogge, M. E. (2008). Evaluation of intergroup dialogue: A review of the empirical literature. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 26, 199–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Duhigg, J. M., Rostosky, S. S., Gray, B. E., & Wimsatt, M. K. (2010). Development of heterosexuals into allies: A qualitative exploration. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 7, 2–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82, 405–432.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Eder, D., & Nenga, S. K. (2003). Socialization in adolescence. In J. Delamater (Ed.), Handbook of social psychology (pp. 157–182). New York: Kluewer Academic.Google Scholar
  19. Erikson, E. (1968). Identity, youth and crisis. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  20. Fingerhut, A. W. (2011). Straight allies: What predicts heterosexuals’ alliance with the LGBT community? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 41, 2230–2248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Floyd, F. J., & Bakeman, R. (2006). Coming-out across the life course: Implications of age and historical context. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 35, 287–296.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Forsberg, C., Thornberg, R., & Samuelsson, M. (2014). Bystanders to bullying: Fourth- to seventh-grade students’ perspectives on their reactions. Research Papers in Education, 29, 557–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Galinsky, A. D., & Moskowitz, G. B. (2000). Perspective-taking: Decreasing stereotype expression, stereotype accessibility, and in-group favoritism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 708–724.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Glasman, L. R., & Albarracin, D. (2006). Forming attitudes that predict future behavior: A meta-analysis of the attitude–behavior relation. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 778–822.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Goldberg, L. R. (1999). A broad-bandwidth, public-domain, personality inventory measuring the lower-level facets of several five-factor models. In I. Mervielde, I. J. Deary, F. De Fruyt, & F. Ostendorf (Eds.), Personality psychology in Europe (Vol. 7, pp. 7–28). Tilburg: Tilburg University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Goldberg, L. R., Johnson, J. A., Eber, H. W., Hogan, R., Ashton, M. C., Cloninger, C. R., & Gough, H. G. (2006). The international personality item pool and the future of public-domain personality measures. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 84–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Goldstein, S. B., & Davis, D. S. (2010). Heterosexual allies: A descriptive profile. Equity and Excellence in Education, 43, 478–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Goodman, D. J. (2001). Promoting diversity and social justice: Educating people from privileged groups. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  29. Gough, H. G., & Bradley, P. (1996). CPI manual (3rd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  30. Heinze, J. E., & Horn, S. S. (2009). Intergroup contact and beliefs about homosexuality in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 937–951.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Herek, G. M. (2000). The psychology of sexual prejudice. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 19–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hodson, G., & Busseri, M. A. (2012). Bright minds and dark attitudes: Lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice through right-wing ideology and low intergroup contact. Psychological Science, 23, 187–195.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Horn, S. S. (2006). Heterosexual adolescents’ attitudes and beliefs about homosexuality and gay and lesbian peers. Cognitive Development, 21, 420–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kurdek, L. A. (1994). Conflict resolution styles in gay, lesbian, heterosexual nonparent, and heterosexual parent couples. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 705–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Laursen, B., Finkelstein, B. D., & Betts, N. T. (2001). A developmental meta-analysis of peer conflict resolution. Developmental Review, 21, 423–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Marshal, M. P., Friedman, M. S., Stall, R., King, K. M., Miles, J., Gold, M. A., et al. (2008). Sexual orientation and adolescent substance use: A meta-analysis and methodological review. Addiction, 103, 546–556.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mata, J., Ghavami, N., & Wittig, M. A. (2010). Understanding gender differences in early adolescents’ sexual prejudice. Journal of Early Adolescence, 30, 50–75.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Montgomery, S. A., & Stewart, A. J. (2012). Privileged allies in lesbian and gay rights activism: Gender, generation, and resistance to heteronormativity. Journal of Social Issues, 68, 162–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Munoz-Plaza, C., Quinn, S. C., & Rounds, K. A. (2002). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students: Perceived social support in the high school environment. The High School Journal, 85, 52–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nagda, B. A. (2006). Breaking barriers, crossing borders, building bridges: Communication processes in intergroup dialogue. Journal of Social Issues, 62, 553–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nagda, B. A., & Zuniga, X. (2003). Fostering meaningful racial engagement through intergroup dialogues. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 6, 111–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nesdale, D. (2001). Development of prejudice in children. In M. Augostinos & K. Reynolds (Eds.), Understanding prejudice, racism, and social conflict (pp. 57–72). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pascoe, C. J. (2007). Dude, you’re a fag: Masculinity and sexuality in high school. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  44. Pettigrew, T. F. (1998). Intergroup contact theory. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 65–85.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. R. (2006). A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 751–783.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pettigrew, T. F., & Tropp, L. R. (2008). How does intergroup contact reduce prejudice? Meta-analytic tests of three mediators. European Journal of Social Psychology, 38, 922–934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pittinsky, T. L., Rosenthal, S. A., & Montoya, R. M. (2011). Measuring positive attitudes toward outgroups: Development and validation of the Allophilia Scale. In L. R. Tropp & R. K. Mallett (Eds.), Moving beyond prejudice reduction: Pathways to positive intergroup relations (pp. 41–60). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Poteat, V. P. (2007). Peer group socialization of homophobic attitudes and behavior during adolescence. Child Development, 78, 1830–1842.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Poteat, V. P., & Anderson, C. J. (2012). Developmental changes in sexual prejudice from early to late adolescence: The effects of gender, race, and ideology on different patterns of change. Developmental Psychology, 48, 1403–1415.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Poteat, V. P., DiGiovanni, C. D., & Scheer, J. R. (2013). Predicting homophobic behavior among heterosexual youth: Domain general and sexual orientation-specific factors at the individual and contextual level. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42, 351–362.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rivers, I. (2011). Homophobic bullying: Research and theoretical perspectives. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Russell, S. T., Everett, B. G., Rosario, M., & Birkett, M. (2014). Indicators of victimization and sexual orientation among adolescents: Analyses from youth risk behavior surveys. American Journal of Public Health, 104, 255–261.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Russell, S. T., Kosciw, J., Horn, S., & Saewyc, E. (2010). Safe schools policy for LGBTQ students. Society for Research in Child Development Social Policy Report, 24(4), 3–17.Google Scholar
  54. Russell, S. T., Sinclair, K. O., Poteat, V. P., & Koenig, B. W. (2012). Adolescent health and harassment based on discriminatory bias. American Journal of Public Health, 102, 493–495.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sauter, F. M., Heyne, D., Blöte, A. W., van Widenfelt, B. M., & Westenberg, P. M. (2010). Assessing therapy-relevant cognitive capacities in young people: Development and psychometric evaluation of the self-reflection and insight scale for youth. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 38, 303–317.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Schafer, J. L., & Graham, J. W. (2002). Missing data: Our view of the state of the art. Psychological Methods, 7, 147–177.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Somerville, L. H., Jones, R. M., Ruberry, E. J., Dyke, J. P., Glover, G., & Casey, B. J. (2013). The medial prefrontal cortex and the emergence of self-conscious emotion in adolescence. Psychological Science, 24, 1554–1562.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sorensen, N., Nagda, B. A., Gurin, P., & Maxwell, K. E. (2009). Taking a “hands on” approach to diversity in higher education: A critical-dialogic model for effective intergroup interaction. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 9, 3–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Turiel, E. (2006). The development of morality. In W. Damon (Series Ed.) & N. Eisenberg (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Volume 3: Social, emotional, and personality development (6th ed., pp. 789–895). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  60. Veenstra, R., Dijkstra, J. K., Steglich, C., & Van Zalk, M. H. W. (2013). Network–behavior dynamics. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23, 399–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Vescio, T. K., Sechrist, G. B., & Paolucci, M. P. (2003). Perspective taking and prejudice reduction: The mediational role of empathy arousal and situational attributions. European Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 455–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vonofakou, C., Hewstone, M., & Voci, A. (2007). Contact with out-group friends as a predictor of meta-attitudinal strength and accessibility of attitudes toward gay men. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92, 804–820.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Boston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

Personalised recommendations