Category: Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgender Issues
Studies show a positive sense of sexual identity in LGB youth to be related to more adaptive functioning. However, developing a positive sense of identity may be more challenging for LGB youth because of the unique social climate in which their sense of identity is developing. Research suggests that LGB youth experience significantly more victimization than their heterosexual peers. Although victimization has been linked to poor mental health outcomes in many studies, limited research examines the effect of victimization on identity development, and data are especially lacking for LGB youth. Yet, it seems likely that youth receiving negative messages about the self as a result of victimization could be vulnerable to identity struggles. Exposure to prejudice and stigma may not lead to identity difficulty for all LGB youth, however, and recognizing and understanding some of the protective factors that may buffer the negative impact of external stressors on identity development is an important area of study. For LGB individuals, perceptions of social support from families and peers may impart a sense of validation and overt acceptance of their LGB status. Furthermore, given that sexual minority youth may face challenges of dealing with stigma related to their sexual orientation, assessment of sexuality-specific support seems particularly important.
A multi-ethnic sample of 171 youth, ranging from 14 to 26, was recruited (mean age = 19.5 years). Youth completed a series of questionnaires to measure peer victimization (overt, relational, reputational, cyber), sexuality-specific victimization, family dynamics/support, sexuality-specific familial support, and LGB identity. SEM was used to test a model to examine if family support, either general family support or sexuality-specific support, moderate the relationship between peer victimization (overt, relation, reputational, cyber), LGB-related victimization, and negative LGB identity development. The measurement model had acceptable fit and the results indicated good model fit as well. Key findings indicated that greater levels of sexuality-specific victimization was associated with greater scores on the negative LGB identity composite, while controlling for gender (b = .303, p < .05). Moreover, LGB individuals who experienced sexuality-specific violence or harassment, but had sexuality-specific support from family members, had a more positive sense of identity (b = - .003, p < .05). In addition, general family support significantly and positively predicted negative LGB identity (b = .258, p < .05). Sexuality support may be especially relevant to identity development among LGB youth. Implications for research and clinical intervention with regard to sexuality specific support will be discussed.