Homophobic name-calling among secondary school students and its implications for mental health

Kate L Collier, Henny M W Bos, Theo G M Sandfort
Journal of Youth and Adolescence 2013, 42 (3): 363-75
Although homophobic verbal victimization has been associated with negative mental health outcomes, little actually is known about its general prevalence and relationship to mental health among adolescents. In addition, the relationship of homophobic name-calling to mental health in gender non-conforming adolescents is not well understood. This study examined the relationship between homophobic verbal victimization and mental health in adolescents, accounting for their sexual orientation and level of gender non-conformity. Survey data was collected from 513 adolescents (ages 11-17) who attended eight schools in and around Amsterdam, the Netherlands; 56.7 % of the participating adolescents were female and 11.1 % reported same-sex attractions. As hypothesized, male adolescents and those with same-sex attractions were more likely to report victimization from homophobic name-calling than were their female and non-same-sex attracted peers. Contrary to expectations, homophobic name-calling was not independently associated with psychological distress after controlling for gender, sexual attractions, gender non-conformity, and other negative treatment by peers. The hypothesis that homophobic name-calling would be more strongly associated with psychological distress in male, same-sex attracted, and gender non-conforming adolescents was also not supported. The results suggest that same-sex attracted and gender non-conforming youth are particularly vulnerable to homophobic name-calling, in the Netherlands as in other contexts, but also that other forms of peer victimization may be more strongly related to mental health.

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