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Adolescents unsure about same-sex, both-sex attraction had lower life satisfaction, more psychosomatic and emotional problems

Adolescents who were unsure about their same-sex and/or both-sex attraction had lower life satisfaction, and had more psychosomatic and emotional problems.

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Adolescents who were unsure about their same-sex and/or both-sex attraction had lower life satisfaction, and had more psychosomatic and emotional problems.

This is according to a study – “Sexual Attraction Disparities in Adolescent Mental Health: The Role of School Norms” was done by Wouter J. Kiekens, Laura Baams, and Gonneke W.J.M. Stevens – that appeared in LGBT Health.

The researchers noted that few studies actually examined whether and how heterosexist norms in schools might influence disparities in mental health between sexual minority and heterosexual adolescents. And so, to address this, they studied disparities in life satisfaction, psychosomatic complaints, and emotional problems between same/both-sex attracted and other-sex attracted adolescents, and examined the moderating role of heterosexist norms on the classroom- and school-level.

Here, the researchers used data from the 2013 and 2017 Dutch Health and Behavior in School-Aged Children study (N = 12,756; mean age = 14.02; standard deviation = 1.54). Separate multi-level analyses for life satisfaction, psychosomatic complaints, and emotional problems were conducted in which cross-level interaction effects between sexual attraction and school and classroom-level heterosexist norms were estimated.

The researchers found:

  • same-sex attracted, both-sex attracted, and adolescents unsure about their sexual attraction reported lower life satisfaction, more psychosomatic complaints, and more emotional problems than their other-sex attracted peers
  • on average, stronger school-level heterosexist norms were associated with higher life satisfaction, fewer psychosomatic complaints, and fewer emotional problems
  • stronger classroom-level heterosexist norms were associated with fewer emotional problems
  • one moderating effect of sexual attraction and school-level heterosexist norms was found
  • contrary to expectations, disparities in life satisfaction between same-sex attracted and other-sex attracted adolescents were smaller when classroom-level heterosexist norms were stronger; and standardized regression coefficients showed that the associations were small.

The researchers concluded that heterosexist norms at the school and classroom level may be weakly associated with health disparities, but that “the findings suggest pressing health disparities between heterosexual and sexual minority adolescents.”

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