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Telling LGBT youth ‘it gets better’ may prove harmful

A study questions campaigns like “It Gets Better”, noting that instead of serving as an encouragement, it may actually have the opposite effect.

A new study questions the “It Gets Better” campaign, noting that instead of serving as an encouragement, it may actually have the opposite effect.

The study, found in the Journal of Homosexuality, examined 245 lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) young adults’ (ages 21-25) retrospective reports of coping in response to LGB minority stress during adolescence (ages 13- 19) to test the reliability and validity of a measure of minority stress coping. It identified three strategies common to LGB teens: LGB-specific strategies (e.g. involvement with LGBT organizations), alternative-seeking strategies (e.g. finding new friends), and cognitive strategies (e.g. imagining a better future).

Interestingly, cognitive-based strategies, such as the “It Gets Better” approach, were associated with poorer adjustment and less likelihood of high school attainment.

In an interview by NewNow Next, University of Arizona professor Russell Toomey, who headed the study, said that the findings “question the ’It Gets Better’ narrative that’s been given to LGB youth. Asking youth to accept negative experiences as the only coping strategy potentially exacerbates stress.” Due to this, Toomey said that strategies like the “It Gets Better” campaign are “associated with more depressive symptoms, less self-esteem and less satisfaction in life.”

Launched in 2010 by Dan Savage in response to reports of LGB youth suicides, “It Gets Better” is a video project that was able to collect over 50,000 video remarks, including from former US President Barack Obama, VP Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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