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Study Finds Same-Sex Relationships Increase Self-Esteem in Teens

Study Finds Same-Sex Relationships Increase Self-Esteem in Teens

The University of Michigan School of Public Health recently completed a very important and necessary study that resulted in a few very interesting findings within the gay, lesbian and bisexual teen population. The study was conducted over a two-year period with 350 gay, lesbian or bisexual teens from three different Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender drop-in centers in New York City. There was an initial baseline survey before a follow-up check-in occurred with the same youth members two years later. The main goal of this study was to discover the influence of same-sex relationships versus opposite-sex relationships and the symptoms of depression, anxiety, internalized homophobia and self-esteem over time.

The University of Michigan School of Public Health recently completed a very important and necessary study that resulted in a few very interesting findings within the gay, lesbian and bisexual teen population.

The study was conducted over a two-year period with 350 gay, lesbian or bisexual teens from three different Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender drop-in centers in New York City. There was an initial baseline survey before a follow-up check-in occurred with the same youth members two years later. The main goal of this study was to discover the influence of same-sex relationships versus opposite-sex relationships and the symptoms of depression, anxiety, internalized homophobia and self-esteem over time.

The study was conducted with care by Jose Bauermeister, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Findings concluded that for girls, a same-sex relationship is protective in that it reduces internalized homophobia after only one relationship. The findings for men were a little bit different in that same-sex relationships raised self-esteem, but only when those relationships were long-term.

Opposite-sex relationships had surprisingly little effect on the group study. According to Bauermeister, "I actually expected to see more associations between psychological distress and having an opposite-sex partner, but there was no association with self-esteem, depression or anxiety. The literature seems to suggest that creating a bond with a partner may be protective. However, we found having an opposite-sex partner is not protective, but it's not harmful either." One interesting thing to note is that opposite-sex relationships did promote internalized homophobia in boys of a younger age. As the subject grew older, the homophobia decreased. This finding was not discovered in girls.

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Research in various studies show that LGBT teens generally suffer through more psychological distress, violence, physical threats and victimization than non-LGBT teens. The study conducted by Bauermeister conveyed findings that seemed to suggest the importance of LGBT youth and the impact their friends have on their lives. Having a support system increased self-esteem in boys while decreasing internalized homophobia in girls.

"Providers and caregivers of (gay, lesbian and bisexual) youth need to create supportive environments where kids can talk about and support their sexual identity, which may include their dating experiences with same-sex and opposite-sex partners," Bauermeister said.

In an unrelated study, Lambda Legal concluded that the average age for a gay or lesbian youth to come out is now 16 years old (previously the range was between 19-23 years old). Also, LGBT students are far more likely than their non-gay peers to run away from home, experience academic problems and to struggle with substance abuse, low self-esteem, and depression. Gay youth are 4 times as likely as their non-gay counterparts to have attempted suicide.

 

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Sarah Toce