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Factors Associated with Academic Achievement for Sexual and Gender Minority and Heterosexual Cisgender Students: Implications from a Nationally Representative Study

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Research on sexual and gender minority student achievement indicates that such students report lowered achievement relative to other students. Increased victimization and less school belonging, amongst other factors, have been identified as contributing to these inequalities. However, supportive schooling structures and caregiver support may support their achievement. A nationally representative survey of secondary school students was used to identify specific factors that support achievement for sexual minority (n = 485), gender minority (n = 298), and heterosexual cisgender (where one’s sex assigned at birth “matches” a binary gender identity, i.e., a male assigned at birth identifies as a boy/man, n = 7064) students in New Zealand. While reported victimization did not affect achievement for sexual and gender minority students, school belonging, and teacher expectations of success, emerged as significant factors. Differences emerged between sexual minority and gender minority achievement factors, suggesting a range of detailed policy implications and recommendations.

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The authors would like to thank the schools and students that participated in Youth’12. The authors thank Ms Jade Farley and Dr Jade Le Grice for their contributions and reviews of earlier versions of this article.

Author Contributions

JF conceived the study and all authors contributed to its design; JF led the analyses and drafted the manuscript; TC, ML and SD assisted JF to draft the manuscript; TC was the principal investigator for the Youth’12 project and SD was a co-investigator. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to John Fenaughty.

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in our study involving student participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of The University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics committee. Funding: Youth’12 was funded by the Ministries of Youth Development, Social Development, Health, Education, Justice; the Department of Labor, Families Commission; and the Alcohol Advisory Council. The authors also acknowledge Toshiba (Australia) Pty. Limited. The funders of Youth’12 had no role in the design, analysis or writing of this article. Ethical Approval: Ethical approval was obtained from The University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee (ref 2011/206).

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Informed consent was obtained from the principal of each participating school as well as from all participating students.

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Fenaughty, J., Lucassen, M.F.G., Clark, T. et al. Factors Associated with Academic Achievement for Sexual and Gender Minority and Heterosexual Cisgender Students: Implications from a Nationally Representative Study. J Youth Adolescence 48, 1883–1898 (2019).

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