Online Program

Understanding the relationship of religious identity conflict and suicide in sexual minority youth

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 9:15 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Jeremy Gibbs, MSW, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Jeremy Goldbach, Ph.D.., LMSW, Social Work, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background: Sexual minority youth (SMY) mature in contexts that espouse anti-homosexual values. For many youth these contexts are defined by religious belief. A Minority Stress framework explains that religious environments exact stress on SMY, which can lead to religious and sexual identity conflict. To date no known study has quantitatively established a link between identity conflict and suicide within this population. Method: A secondary data analysis was conducted using data collected by OutProud in 2000 via an internet-survey sample recruited though in-print media and websites, which cater to SMY. Of 5,281 U.S. respondents, 18-24 years old, 2,949 were included in this analysis. Three indicators of identity conflict, an internalized homophobia (IH) scale, and two suicide variables were measured. Analysis included logistic regressions to establish relationships between conflict measures and suicide, and to determine the extent to which IH mediates these relationships. Results: All three indicators are associated with higher odds of suicidal thoughts. Internalized homophobia fully mediated one relationship and partially mediated the remaining. Leaving one's religion due to conflict had a dual relationship with suicide (directly increasing the odds, and indirectly via IH decreasing the odds). Conclusion: SMY who mature in religious contexts, which facilitate identity conflict, are at higher odds for suicide compared to other SMY. Internalized homophobia accounts for portions of this conflict. Although leaving one's religion due to conflict may appear to suggest an adaptive response for SMY, it also is associated with higher odds of suicide. Further research is needed to investigate this complex relationship.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the relationship between religious identity conflict and suicide for sexual minority youth. Analyze the mediating power of internalized homophobia in this relationship.

Keyword(s): Suicide, Youth

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a PhD student in social work that has undergone rigorous course work and has been involved in multiple research studies related to sexual minority youth.
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.