LGBTQ Adolescents’ Positive and Negative Emotions and Experiences in U.S. High Schools
In a national survey of more than 19,000 U.S. high school students, we compared how LGBTQ youth and their non-LGBTQ peers felt at school and how they perceived social and academic experiences. We examined differences in emotions and school experiences across gender identities, sexual identities, and their intersections. LGBTQ adolescents reported significantly more frequent negative emotions and bullying, consistent with previous research. LGBTQ students also reported less frequent experiences of positive emotions at school and less frequent positive school experiences (i.e., positive peer and teacher relationships, subjective task value, and persistence support). Students who were both gender and sexual identity minority reported the most frequent negative and least frequent positive experiences at school, compared to students who were neither a gender or sexual identity minority. Analyses of the intersection of gender and sexual identity showed that heterosexual male students experienced more frequent positive emotions and school experiences, and fewer negative emotions and bullying, compared to all other groups. We discuss how these differences might be addressed through school interventions and future research.
KeywordsLGBTQ youth Gender identity Sexual identity Adolescence Emotions School climate
The present research was funded by a grant to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (grant number 72691). The authors would like to acknowledge Born This Way Foundation for their support in the data collection for this research.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest.
Informed consent was obtained for all study participants and corresponding data included for analyses.
- Almeida, J., Johnson, R. M., Corliss, H. L., Molnar, B. E., & Azrael, D. (2009). Emotional distress among LGBT youth: The influence of perceived discrimination based on sexual orientation. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 1001–1014. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-009-9397-9.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Andre, A., Brown, J., Delpercio, A., Kahn, E., Nicoll, A., & Sherouse, B. (2014). Supporting and caring for our bisexual youth. D.C.: The Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.hrc.org/youth-report/supporting-and-caring-for-our-bisexual-youth#.V04D4ZMrLOT.
- Baum, J., Brill, S., Brown, J., Delpercio, A., Kahn, E., Kenney, L., … Nicoll, A. (2012). Supporting and caring for our gender expansive youth: Lessons from the Human Rights Campaign's Youth Survey. Retrieved from the Human Rights Campaign: www.hrc.org/youth-gender.
- Birkett, M., Russell, S. T., & Corliss, H. L. (2014). Sexual-orientation disparities in school: The meditational role of indicators of victimization in achievement and truancy because of feeling unsafe. American Journal of Public Health, 104, 1124–1128. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301785.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Bond, L., Butler, H., Thomas, L., Carlin, J., Glover, S., Bowes, G., … Patton, G. (2007). Social and school connectedness in early secondary school as predictors of late teenage substance use, mental health, and academic outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40(4), 357-e9–357-e18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2006.10.013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Brackett, M. A., & Rivers, S. E. (2014). Transforming students’ lives with social and emotional learning. In R. Pekrun & L. Linnenbrink-Garcia (Eds.), International handbook of emotions in education (pp. 368–388). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Cochran, B. N., Stewart, A. J., Ginzler, J. A., & Cauce, A. M. (2002). Challenges faced by homeless sexual minorities: Comparison of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender homeless adolescents with their heterosexual counterparts. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 773–777. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.92.5.773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Collier, K. L., van Beusekom, G., Bos, H. M. W., & Sandfort, T. G. M. (2013). Sexual orientation and gender identity/expression related peer victimization in adolescence: A systematic review of associated psychosocial and health outcomes. Journal of Sex Research, 50(3-4), 299–317. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2012.750639.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Ebesutani, C., Regan, J., Smith, A., Reise, S., Higa-McMillan, C., & Chorpita, B. F. (2012). The 10-item positive and negative affect schedule for children, child and parent shortened versions: Application of item response theory for more efficient assessment. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 34(2), 191–203. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-011-9273-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (2002). Motivational beliefs, values, and goals. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 109–132. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135153.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Eisner, S. (2013). Bi: Notes for a bisexual revolution. Berkeley: Seal Press.Google Scholar
- Elbertson, N. A., Brackett, M. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2009). School-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programming: Current perspectives. In A. Hargreaves, M. Fullan, D. Hopkins, & A. Lieberman (Eds.), The second international handbook of educational change (pp. 1017–1032). Netherlands: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-2660-6_57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Farias, C. (2016, July 14). Supreme Court about to enter legal fight over trans rights and bathroom access. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/transgender-bathroom_us_57869ceee4b0867123df7887.
- Fisher, E. S., Komosa-Hawkins, K., Saldaña, E., Thomas, G. M., Hsiao, C., Rauld, M., … Miller, D. (2008). Promoting school success for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning students: Primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention and intervention strategies. The California School Psychologist, 13(1), 79–91. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03340944.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Friedman, M. S., Silvestre, A. J., Gold, M. A., Markovic, N., Savin-Williams, R. C., Huggins, J., … Sell, R. L. (2004). Adolescents define sexual orientation and suggest ways to measure it. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 303–317. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2004.03.006.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Galupo, M. P., Henise, S. B., & Mercer, N. L. (2016). "The labels don't work very well": Transgender individuals' conceptualizations of sexual orientation and sexual identity. International Journal of Transgenderism, 17(2), 93–104. https://doi.org/10.1080/15532739.2016.1189373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Gaspard, H., Dicke, A., Flunger, B., Brisson, B. M., Hafner, I., Nagengast, B., … Trautwein, U. (2015). Fostering adolescents’ value beliefs for mathematics with a relevance intervention in the classroom. Developmental Psychology, 51(9), 1226–1240. https://doi.org/10.1037/dev0000028.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Goodenow, C., Watson, R., Adjei, J., Homma, Y., & Saewyc, E. (2016). Sexual orientation trends and disparities in school bullying and violence-related experiences, 1999–2013. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 3, 386–396. https://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000188.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Hanna, J. L. (2017). One student at a time: A reflection of support for a first-year GSA club and its impact on perceived acceptance for LGBTQ students. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues, and Ideas, 90(3), 98–102. https://doi.org/10.1080/00098655.2017.1301154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Hayes, J. A., Chun-Kennedy, C., Edens, A., & Locke, B. D. (2011). Do double minority students face double jeopardy? Testing minority stress theory. Journal of College Counseling, 14, 117–126. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1882.2011.tb00267.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Herman, J. L., Flores, A. R., Brown, T. N. T., Wilson, B. D. M., & Conron, K. J. (2017). Age of individuals who identify as transgender in the United States. UCLA: The Williams Institute. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/TransAgeReport.pdf.
- Hirschfeld Davis, J. (2017). Military transgender ban to begin within 6 months, memo says. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/23/us/politics/trump-military-transgender-ban.html?mcubz=0.
- Human Rights Campaign. (2017). Violence against the transgender community in 2017. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2017.
- Jones R. P., Cox, D., & Navarro-Rivera, J. (2014). A shifting landscape: A decade of change in American attitudes about same-sex marriage and LGBT issues. Public Religion Research Institute. Retrieved from http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014.LGBT_REPORT.pdf.
- Klem, A. M., & Connell, J. P. (2004). Relationships matter: Linking teacher support to student engagement and achievement. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 262–273. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2004.tb08283.x.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., & Diaz, E. M. (2009). Who, what, where, when, and why: Demographic and ecological factors contributing to hostile school climate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 976–988. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-009-9412-1.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Kosciw, J. G., Palmer, N. A., & Kull, R. M. (2015). Reflecting resiliency: Openness about sexual orientation and/or gender identity and its relationship to well-being and educational outcomes for LGBT students. American Journal of Community Psychology, 55, 167–178. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-014-9642-6.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Lenhart, A., Anderson, M., & Smith, A. (2015, October). Appendix A: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/01/lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-teens/.
- Marshal, M. P., Dietz, L. J., Friedman, M. S., Stall, R., Smith, H. A., McGinley, J., … Brent, D. A. (2011). Suicidality and depression disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual youth: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Adolescent Health, 49, 115–123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.02.005.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- McGuire, J. K., Anderson, C. R., Toomey, R. B., & Russell, S. T. (2010). School climate for transgender youth: A mixed method investigation of student experiences and school responses. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 1175–1188. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-010-9540-7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- McLaren, S., Schurmann, J., & Jenkins, M. (2015). The relationship between sense of belonging to a community GLB youth group; School, teacher, and peer connectedness; and depressive symptoms: Testing of a path model. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(12), 1688–1702. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2015.1078207.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Ostrove, J. M., Adler, N. E., Kuppermann, M., & Washington, A. E. (2000). Objective and subjective assessments of socioeconomic status and their relationship to self-rated health in an ethnically diverse sample of pregnant women. Health Psychology, 19, 613–618. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-622.214.171.1243.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Reschly, A. L., Huebner, E. S., Appleton, J. J., & Antaramian, S. (2008). Engagement as flourishing: The contribution of positive emotions and coping to adolescents’ engagement at school and with learning. Psychology in the Schools, 45(5), 419–431. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.20306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rivers, S. E., Brackett, M. A., Reyes, M. R., Elbertson, N. A., & Salovey, P. (2013). Improving the social and emotional climate of classrooms: A clustered randomized controlled trial testing The RULER Approach. Prevention Science, 14(1), 77–87. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-012-0305-2.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Roberts, A. L., Rosario, M., Slopen, N., Calzo, J. P., & Austin, S. B. (2013). Childhood gender nonconformity, bullying victimization, and depressive symptoms across adolescence and early adulthood: An 11-year longitudinal study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 52(2), 143–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2012.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Russell, S. T., & Fish, J. N. (2016). Mental health in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 12, 465–487. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093153.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Russell, S. T., Ryan, C., Toomey, R. B., Diaz, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2011). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescent school victimization: Implications for young adult health and adjustment. Journal of School Health, 81(5), 223–230. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.001583.x.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Ruzek, E. A., Hafen, C. A., Allen, J. P., Gregory, A., Mikami, A. Y., & Pianta, R. C. (2016). How teacher emotional support motivates students: The mediating roles of perceived peer relatedness, autonomy support, and competence. Learning and Instruction, 42, 95–103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2016.01.004.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Swearer, S. M., Turner, R. K., Givens, J. E., & Pollack, W. S. (2008). “You’re so gay!”: Do different forms of bullying matter to adolescent males? School Psychology Review, 37(2), 160–173.Google Scholar
- Toomey, R. B., Ryan, C., Diaz, R. M., Card, N. A., & Russell, S. T. (2010). Gender non-conforming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: School victimization and young adult psychosocial adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 46(6). https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020705.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Watson, R. J., Grossman, A. H., & Russell, S. T. (2016). Sources of social support and mental health among LGB youth. Youth & Society. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X116660110.
- Watt, H. M. G., Shapka, J. D., Morris, Z. A., Durik, A. M., Keating, D. P., & Eccles, J. S. (2012). Gendered motivational processes affecting high school mathematics participation, educational aspirations, and career plans: A comparison of samples from Australia, Canada, and the United States. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027838.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar