240475 Homophobic name-calling at school and the mental health of same-sex attracted and gender non-conforming adolescents

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kate Collier, MPH, CHES, CPH , New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York, NY
Henny Bos, PhD , Research Institute of Child Development and Education; Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Theo G. M. Sandfort, PhD , HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, New York, NY
Research indicates that homophobic name-calling is prevalent in secondary schools, but less clear is whether it affects all adolescents negatively or only those who are same-sex attracted or gender non-conforming. This study evaluated the impact of homophobic name-calling at school on the mental health of adolescents, with a focus on gender non-conforming and same-sex attracted adolescents. Method: Computer-based surveys were administered to 513 secondary school students (ages 12 to 15 years) in the Netherlands. The survey assessed same-sex attractions, gender non-conformity, and mental health, and included a modified version of Poteat and Espelage's (2005) Homophobic Content Target Sub-scale. Results: Eleven percent of participants reported same-sex attraction. The mean gender non-conformity score was 1.86 (SD = 1.02; range: 1-5); higher scores were found among same-sex attracted participants (M = 2.31, SD = 1.38) as compared to those not reporting same-sex attraction (M = 1.82, SD = 0.96) (p <.05). Gender non-conformity and same-sex attraction were associated with more mental health problems and more frequent experiences being called homophobic epithets. Name-calling experiences were positively associated with mental health problems in the entire sample (r = .24, p <.001). Hierarchical regression analyses showed that experiences with name-calling partially mediated the relationship between same-sex attraction, gender non-conformity, and mental health. Conclusions: Being the target of homophobic name-calling at school may impact adolescents' mental health, regardless of their sexual attraction or gender expression. The disproportionate burden of mental health problems borne by sexual minority youth seems in part to result from this type of harassment.

Learning Areas:
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify one way to assess homophobic victimization in the school environment. Describe the mental health consequences of school-based homophobic victimization among adolescents.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I will be presenting findings from original research conducted as part of my PhD thesis
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.