Research Blog – The Future of LGBTQ Research with Sexual Minority Adolescents
With the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in favor of marriage equality, the academic community can utilize this momentum to further address health disparities within the LGBTQ community. Dr. Brian Mustanski, the founder and Director of the IMPACT Program and a pioneer in translational research on the health and development of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, outlines his suggestions for areas of future research opportunities for sexual minority (SM) youth in a new paper in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. His recommendations include:
Data from Younger Samples and Longitudinal Designs
The majority of research on SM individuals has focused on persons 18 years or older with few studies longitudinally charting the health issues of SM minors. Moving forward, researchers must work to address reticence from Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to involve younger participants and implement cohort studies that document experiences of SM teenagers as they grow to adulthood.
Some studies have highlighted the individual experiences of SM youth, yet few have implemented family-based designs that explore parenting factors, such as acceptance, social support, monitoring, warmth, and communication. Failure to include parents of SM teens leads to the omission of vital information that could improve understanding of the impact of familial and parental relationships on SM youths’ health and development, which could better inform the development of family-based interventions or programming. However, it is important to note that parental involvement in research with SM youth is still a barrier, given many SM youth would be unwilling to ask their parents to participate in LGBTQ-focused research and many parents are unaware or unaccepting of their child’s SM status.
Research on Romantic Relationships
The recent national legalization of marriage equality has produced the perfect opportunity to study romantic relationships among SM youth. Although most research has focused on individuals in relationships rather than both partners, more research is needed that explores the development and relationship skills of same-sex relationships among adolescents at all stages of dating.
In addition to these areas, Dr. Mustanski also highlighted the following aims for future research on SM youth: development and dissemination of SM youth-specific interventions, exploring intersectionality of identities and their impact on resiliency and health disparities, and innovative methodology for sampling SM adolescents.
As outlined above, there are numerous areas ripe for scholars of all levels to make vital contributions to the field and to help address the health disparities experienced by SM youth. The IMPACT Program is already targeting many of these issues in our own research projects. For example, ASAP! is investigating ways to reduce barriers, while maintaining safety, for sexual minority youth participating in research. RADAR is working to understand the drivers of new HIV infections across multiple health domains, utilizing innovative methodologies including social networks and biomedical markers to examine a holistic picture of young men’s health.
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 Mustanski, B. (2015). Future directions in research on sexual minority adolescent mental, behavioral, and sexual health. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 44(1), 204-219. doi:10.1080/15374416.2014.982756