JOURNAL ARTICLE

Does it get better? A longitudinal analysis of psychological distress and victimization in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth

Michelle Birkett, Michael E Newcomb, Brian Mustanski
Journal of Adolescent Health: Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine 2015, 56 (3): 280-5
25586226

PURPOSE: The mental health and victimization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth have garnered media attention with the "It Gets Better Project." Despite this popular interest, there is an absence of empirical evidence evaluating a possible developmental trajectory in LGBTQ distress and the factors that might influence distress over time.

METHODS: This study used an accelerated longitudinal design and multilevel modeling to examine a racially/ethnically diverse analytic sample of 231 LGBTQ adolescents aged 16-20 years at baseline, across six time points, and over 3.5 years.

RESULTS: Results indicated that both psychological distress and victimization decreased across adolescence and into early adulthood. Furthermore, time-lagged analyses and mediation analyses suggested that distress was related to prior experiences of victimization, with greater victimization leading to greater distress. Support received from parents, peers, and significant others was negatively correlated with psychological distress in the cross-sectional model but did not reach significance in the time-lagged model.

CONCLUSIONS: Analyses suggest that psychological distress might "get better" when adolescents encounter less victimization and adds to a growing literature indicating that early experiences of stress impact the mental health of LGBTQ youth.

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