Sexual-orientation disparities in school: the mediational role of indicators of victimization in achievement and truancy because of feeling unsafe

Michelle Birkett, Stephen T Russell, Heather L Corliss
American Journal of Public Health 2014, 104 (6): 1124-8

OBJECTIVES: We examined sexual-orientation identity disparities in truancy and academic achievement, and the mediational role of victimization in a large high-school sample.

METHODS: We utilized pooled data, measuring sexual identity, from the 2005 and 2007 Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System Surveys. Multilevel logistic regression modeling estimated the odds of low grades and truancy because of feeling unsafe comparing lesbian/gay, bisexual, (LGB) and unsure students to heterosexuals. We stratified models by gender. Indicators of victimization were examined to mediate the relationship between identifying as a sexual minority and school achievement or truancy.

RESULTS: LGB-identified youths reported significantly elevated odds of truancy and low grades (odds ratios = 1.6-3.2; all P < .05). Additionally, both genders noting uncertainty about their sexual identity showed increased odds of truancy. Victimization indicators mediated the relationship between identifying as a sexual minority and experiencing negative school outcomes, with greater victimization indicators being associated with increased truancy and lower grades, and the extent of mediation differed by gender.

CONCLUSIONS: As early disparities in academic achievement and school engagement have indicated a lifetime of increased health and behavioral risk factors, early intervention targeting school victimization is necessary.

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