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Associations Between LGBTQ-Affirming School Climate and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization Among Adolescents


Intimate partner violence (IPV) impacts sexual minority adolescents at rates equal to or greater than the rate it impacts heterosexual adolescents. We investigated whether reports of physical and sexual IPV were less frequent in school jurisdictions with more affirming climates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students; and whether these associations varied for sexual orientation subgroups. We combined student-level data from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys on demographics and experiences with physical and sexual IPV with jurisdiction-level data from the 2014 School Health Profiles on LGBTQ-affirming school climate. Multilevel logistic regression models examined associations between LGBTQ-affirming school climates and IPV. We stratified our data by sex and examined whether these associations differed by sexual orientation subgroups using cross-level interaction terms between school climate and sexual orientation (assessed via sexual identity and behavior). Sexual minority youth were more likely to report experiencing past-year physical and sexual IPV than their heterosexual counterparts. Attending schools with more LGBTQ-affirming climates reduced the likelihood of reporting physical IPV, but not sexual IPV, for female students. More LGBTQ-affirming school climates increased risk for sexual IPV among gay male students. Establishing LGBTQ-affirming school climates may reduce physical IPV for female students, but may have unintended consequences on sexual IPV prevalence for gay male students. More work is necessary to ensure that these climates are affirming for all sexual minority students and to address sexual violence prevention.

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The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01AA024409 to G.P. and K01AA027564 to R.W.S.C.) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (TL1TR001858) of the National Institutes of Health supported this research article. The opinions expressed in this work are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the funders.

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Correspondence to Brian J. Adams.

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This is an observational study. The Northwestern University Institutional Review Board granted the study exempt status.

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Adams, B.J., Turner, B., Wang, X. et al. Associations Between LGBTQ-Affirming School Climate and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization Among Adolescents. Prev Sci 22, 227–236 (2021).

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  • Intimate partner violence
  • Dating violence
  • Sexual minority youth
  • Adolescence
  • School climate