Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 235–245 | Cite as

School Belonging, Self-Esteem, and Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents: An Examination of Sex, Sexual Attraction Status, and Urbanicity

  • Renee Vickerman Galliher
  • Sharon Scales Rostosky
  • Hannah K. Hughes


Using data from Wave II of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health; Bearman, P. S., Jones, J., and Udry, J. R., 1997), we conducted multivariate analyses to examine three indicators of psychosocial adjustment (school belonging, self-esteem, depressive symptoms) and their associations with sexual attraction status, sex, and urbanicity. In general, sexual minority adolescents reported lower psychological adjustment than adolescents endorsing other-sex attractions only, with sexual minority females at particular risk. Further, differential patterns of risk for sexual minority youth emerged across rural, urban, and suburban communities. We conclude by discussing implications of these findings for addressing the psychosocial needs of sexual minority adolescents.

sexual minority adolescence adjustment 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderman, E. (2002a). School effects on psychological outcomes during adolescence. J. Educ. Psychol. 94: 795–809.Google Scholar
  2. Anderman, L. H. (2002b). Predictors of change in middle school students' sense of school belonging. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana.Google Scholar
  3. Battistich, V., Solomon, D., Watson, M., and Schaps, E. (1997). Caring school communities. Educ. Psychol. 32: 137–151.Google Scholar
  4. Baumeister, R. F., and Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychol. Bull. 117: 497–529.Google Scholar
  5. Bearman, P. S., Jones, J., and Udry, J. R. (1997). The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health: Research design 'WWW document'. URL: Scholar
  6. Bohan, J. S. (1996). Psychology and Sexual Orientation: Coming to Terms. Routledge, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Bontempo, D. E., and D'Augelli, A. R. (2002). Effects of at-school victimization and sexual oreitnation on lesbian, gay, or bisexual youths' health risk behavior. J. Adolesc. Heal. 30: 364–374.Google Scholar
  8. Boxer, A. M., Cook, J. A., and Herdt, G. (1999). Experiences of coming out among gay and lesbian youth: Adolescent alone? In Blustein, J., and Levine, C. (eds.), The Adolescent Alone: Decision-Making in Health Care in the United States. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 121–138.Google Scholar
  9. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). Contexts of child rearing: Problems and prospects. Am. Psychol. 34: 844–850.Google Scholar
  10. D'Augelli, A. R. (1998). Developmental implications of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths. In Herek, G. (ed.), Stigma and Sexual Orientation. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 62–78.Google Scholar
  11. D'Augelli, A. R. (2002). Mental health problems among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths ages 14-21. Clin. Child Psychol. Psychiatry, 7: 433–456.Google Scholar
  12. D'Augelli, A. R., and Hershberger, S. L. (1993). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth in community settings: Personal challenges and mental health problems. Am. J. Commu. Psychol. 21: 421–448.Google Scholar
  13. Deaux, K. (1985). Sex and gender. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 36: 49–81.Google Scholar
  14. Deci, E. L., Vallerland, R. J., Pelletier, L. G., and Ryan, R. M. (1991). Motivation and education: The self-determination perspective. Educ. Psychol. 26: 325–346.Google Scholar
  15. Devor, H. (1998). Where it all begins: The biological bases of gender. In Anselmi, D. L., and Law, A. L. (eds.), Questions of Gender: Perspectives and Paradoxes. McGraw-Hill, Boston, MA, pp. 120–138.Google Scholar
  16. Elze, D. E. (2002). Risk factors for internalizing and externalizing problems among gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents. Soc. Work Res. 26: 89–100.Google Scholar
  17. Finn, J. D. (1989). Withdrawing from school. Rev. Educ. Res. 59: 117–142.Google Scholar
  18. Floyd, F. J., and Stein, T. S. (2002). Sexual orientation identity formation among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths: Multiple patterns of milestone experiences. J. Res. Adolesc. 12: 167–191.Google Scholar
  19. Floyd, F. J., Stein, T. S., Harter, K., Allison, A., and Nye, C. L. (1999). Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths: Separation-individuation, parental attitudes, identity consolidation, and well-being. J. Youth Adolesc. 28: 719–739.Google Scholar
  20. Garofalo, R., Wolf, R. C., Kessel, S., Palfrey, J., and DuRant, R. H. (1998). The association between health risk behaviors and sexual orientation among a school-based sample of adolescents. Pediatrics, 101: 895–902.Google Scholar
  21. Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) (2000). The GLSEN Lunchbox: A Comprehensive Training Program for Ending Anti-Gay Bias in Schools. GLSEN, NY.Google Scholar
  22. Gonsiorek, J. C. (1988). Mental health issues of gay and lesbian adolescents. J. Adolesc. Heal. Care 9: 114–122.Google Scholar
  23. Goodenow, C. (1993). The Psychological Sense of School Membership among adolescents: Scale Development and educational correlates. Psychol. Sch. 30(1): 79–90.Google Scholar
  24. Grotberg, E. (1994). Promoting Resilience in Children: A New Approach. University of Alabama, The Civitan Center, Birmingham.Google Scholar
  25. Herek, G. M. (1994). Assessing attitudes toward lesbians and gay men: A review of empirical research with the ATLG scale. In Greene, B., and Herek, G. M. (eds.), Lesbian and Gay Psychology. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 206–228.Google Scholar
  26. Hershberger, S. L., and D'Augelli, A. R. (1995). The impact of victimization on the mental health and suicidality of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths. Dev. Psychol. 31: 65–74.Google Scholar
  27. Jessor, R. (1992). Risk behavior in adolescence: A psychosocial framework for understanding and action. In Rogers, D. E., and Ginzburg, E. (eds.), Adolescents at Risk: Medical and Social Perspectives. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, pp. 19–34.Google Scholar
  28. Kendall, R. C., Cantwell, D. P., and Kazdin, A. E. (1989). Depression in children and adolescents: Assessment issues and recommendations. Cogn. Ther. and Res. 13: 109–146.Google Scholar
  29. Khayatt, D. (1994). Surviving school as lesbian students. Gender Educ. 6: 47–61.Google Scholar
  30. Lasser, J., and Tharinger, D. (2003). Visibility management in school and beyond: A qualitative study of gay, lesbian, bisexual youth. J. Adolesc. 26: 233–244.Google Scholar
  31. Leithwood, K., and Jantzi, D. (1999). The relative effects of principal and teacher sources of leadership on student engagement with school. Educ. Adm. Q. 35(Suppl.): 679–706.Google Scholar
  32. Lindhorst, T. (1997). Lesbians and gay men in the country: Practice implications for rural social workers. In Smith, J. D. (ed.), Rural Gays and Lesbians: Building on the Strengths of Communities Harrington Park Press/Haworth Press, Binghamton, NY, pp. 1–11.Google Scholar
  33. Lock, J., and Steiner, H. (1999). Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth risks for emotional, physical, and social problems: Results from a community-based survey. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry, 38: 297–305.Google Scholar
  34. Masten, A. S., and Coatsworth, J. D. (1998). The development of competence in favorable and unfavorable environments: Lessons from research on successful children. Am. Psycholo. 53: 205–221.Google Scholar
  35. Masten, A. S., Hubbard, J. J., Gest, S. D., Tellegen, A., Garmezy, N., and Ramirez, M. (1999). Competence in thecontext of adversity: Pathways to resilience and maladaptation from childhood to late adolescence. Dev. Psychopathol. 11: 143–169.Google Scholar
  36. Moses, A. E., and Buckner, J. A. (1980). Special problems of rural gay clients. Hum. Serv. Rural Environ. 5: 22–27.Google Scholar
  37. Nayak, A., and Kehily, M. J. (1996). Playing it straight: Masculinities, homophobias and schooling. J. Gender Stud. 5: 211–230.Google Scholar
  38. Newman, B. M., Lohman, B. J., Newman, P. R., Myers, M. C., and Smith, V. L. (2000). Experiences of urban youth navigating the transition to ninth grade. Youth Soc. 31: 387–416.Google Scholar
  39. Oetting, E. R., and Donnermeyer, J. F. (1998). Primary socialization theory: The etiology of drug use and deviance. I. Subst. Use Misuse, 33(4): 995–1026.Google Scholar
  40. Osterman, K. F. (2000). Students' need for belonging in the school community. Rev. Educ. Res. 70: 323–367.Google Scholar
  41. Pratte, T. (1993). A comparative study of attitudes toward homosexuality: 1986 and 1991. J. Homosex. 26: 77–83.Google Scholar
  42. Price, J. H., and Telljohann, S. K. (1991). School counselors' perceptions of adolescent homosexuals. J. Sch. Heal. 61: 433–438.Google Scholar
  43. Radloff, L. (1977). The CES-D Scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. J. Appl. Psychol. Meas. 1: 385–401.Google Scholar
  44. Reinherz, H. Z., Frost, A. K., Stewart-Berghauer, G., Pakiz, B., Kennedy, K., and Schille, C. (1990). The many faces of correlates of depressive symptoms in adolescents. J. Early Adolesc. 10: 455–471.Google Scholar
  45. Rich, A. (1980). Compulsory heteroseuxality and lesbian existence. Signs: J. Women Cult. Soc. 5: 631–660.Google Scholar
  46. Riggle, E. D. B., Rostosky, S. S., and Reedy, S. (in press). Conducting on-line surveys with BGLT populations: Issues and techniques. J. Homosex.Google Scholar
  47. Rosario, M., Hunter, J., Maguen, S., Gwadz, S., and Smith, R. (2001). The coming-out process and its adaptational and health-related associations among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths: Stipulation and exploration of a model. Am. J. Community Psychol. 29: 133–160.Google Scholar
  48. Rosario, M., Rotheram-Borus, M. J., and Reid, H. (1996). Gay-related stress and its correlates among gay and bisexual male adolescents of predominantly Black and Hispanic background. J. Community Psychol. 24: 136–159.Google Scholar
  49. Rosenberg, M. (1989). Society and the Adolescent Self-Image. Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT.Google Scholar
  50. Rostosky, S. S., Owens, G. P., Zimmerman, R. S., and Riggle, E. (2003). Association among same-sex attraction, school belonging, and alcohol and marijuana use in rural high school students. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, Illinois.Google Scholar
  51. Rounds, K. A. (1988). AIDS in rural areas. Challenges to providing care. Soc. Work, 33: 257–261.Google Scholar
  52. Russell, S. T., Franz, B.T., and Driscoll, A. K. (2001). Same-sex romantic attraction and experiences of violence in adolescence. Am. J. Public Heal. 91: 903–906.Google Scholar
  53. Russell, S. T., and Joyner, K. (2001). Adolescent sexual orientation and suicide risk: Evidence from a national study. Am. J. Public Heal. 91: 1276–1281.Google Scholar
  54. Russell, S. T., Seif, H., and Truong, N. L. (2001). School outcomes of sexual minority youth in the United States: Evidence from a national study. J. Adolesc. 24: 11–27.Google Scholar
  55. Saewyc, E. M., Bearinger, L. H., Heinz, P. A., Blum, R. W., and Resnick, M. D. (1998). Gender differences in health and risk behaviors among bisexual and homosexual adolescents. J. Adolesc. Heal. 23: 181–188.Google Scholar
  56. Safren, S. A., and Heimberg, R. G. (1999). Depression, hopelessness, suicidality, and related factors in sexual minority and heterosexual adolescents. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 67: 859–866.Google Scholar
  57. Savin-Williams, R. C. (1990). Gay and Lesbian Youth: Expressions of Identity. Hemisphere, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  58. Savin-Williams, R. C. (1995). Lesbian, gay male, and bisexual adolescents. In D'Augelli, A. R., and Patterson, C. J. (eds.), Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identities Across the Lifespan. Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 165–189.Google Scholar
  59. Savin-Williams, R. C. (1998). The disclosure to families of same-sex attractions by lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths. J. Res. Adolescence, 8: 49–68.Google Scholar
  60. Smith, G. W., and Smith, D. E. (1998). The ideology of "fag": The school experience of gay students. Sociol. Q. 39: 309–335.Google Scholar
  61. Stamm, B. H. (ed.) (2003). Rural Behavioral Health Care: An Interdisciplinary Guide. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  62. Strober, M., McCracken, J., and Hanna, G. (1991). Affective disorders. In Lerner, R. M., Petersen, A. C., and Brooks-Gunn, J. (eds.), Encyclopedia of Adolescence (Vol. 1). Garland, New York, pp. 18–26Google Scholar
  63. Telljohann, S. K., and Price, J. H. (1993). A qualitative examination of adolescent homosexuals' life experiences: Ramifications for secondary school personnel. J. Homosex. 26: 41–56.Google Scholar
  64. Troiden, R. R. (1989). The formation of homosexual identities. J. Homosex. 17: 43–73.Google Scholar
  65. Udry, J. R., and Chantala, K. (2002). Risk assessment of adolescents with same-sex relationships. J. Adolesc. Heal. 31: 84–92.Google Scholar
  66. Unger, R. K. (1979). Toward a redefinition of sex and gender. Am. Psychol. 34: 1085–1094.Google Scholar
  67. Uribe, V. (1994). Project 10: A school-based outreach to gay and lesbian adolescents. High Sch. J. 77(Special issue): 108–112.Google Scholar
  68. Waldner-Haugrud, L., and Magruder, B. (1996). Homosexual identity expression among lesbian and gay adolescents: An analysis of perceived structural associations. Youth Soc. 27: 313–333.Google Scholar
  69. Woog, D. (1995). School's Out: The Impact of Gay and Lesbian Issues on American's Schools. Alyson, Boston.Google Scholar
  70. Yaylayan, S., Viesselman, J. O., Weller, E. B., and Weller, R. A. (1992). Depressive mood disorders in adolescents. Adolesc. Med. 3: 41–50.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renee Vickerman Galliher
    • 1
  • Sharon Scales Rostosky
    • 2
  • Hannah K. Hughes
    • 3
  1. 1.Clinical PsychologyUtah State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Counseling PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyUSA
  3. 3.Educational PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyUSA

Personalised recommendations