Short-term prospective effects of homophobic victimization on the mental health of heterosexual adolescents

V Paul Poteat, Jillian R Scheer, Craig D DiGiovanni, Ethan H Mereish
Journal of Youth and Adolescence 2014, 43 (8): 1240-51
Many heterosexual youth report homophobic victimization but there is little longitudinal research to examine its mental health consequences for them. In a 7-month study across an academic school year among 572 heterosexual high school students (55% females), we tested the short-term effects of homophobic victimization on anxiety and depressive symptoms with attention to gender differences. Homophobic victimization at the beginning of the school year predicted higher levels of concurrent anxiety over and above levels attributable to general victimization. Further, when controlling for initial anxiety and general victimization, homophobic victimization at the beginning of the school year predicted increased anxiety at the end of the school year for males, but not for females. Homophobic victimization across time points was more strongly associated for males than females, and this accounted for why initial homophobic victimization predicted increased anxiety for males but not females (i.e., it was indicative of mediated moderation). In contrast, homophobic victimization at the beginning of the school year did not predict concurrent depressive symptoms over and above general victimization. Similarly, although it predicted increased depressive symptoms at the end of the school year for males but not for females, the effect was weaker than for anxiety. These findings underscore that the effects of homophobic victimization are not temporary, particularly as they pertain to anxiety, and underscore the need to consider the nature of the victimization that youth experience, including for heterosexual youth.

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