Research Blog—Victimization Linked to Poor School Outcomes in Sexual Minority Youth
Success in school is important. Early school success is a strong predictor of well-being and numerous health and social outcomes . Multiple studies have shown that school failure often leads to later problems like drug use, mental health problems, and unemployment [1-3]. However, LGBT youth may have difficulties succeeding in school.
A recent study shows that LGB* students may experience increased school problems . Specifically, LGB youth report lower grades and greater truancy than straight students. LGB students were between 2 and 3 times more likely to report failing grades versus straight students. LGB students were also more likely to miss school. Of LGB youth, 10-13% of girls and 19-20% of boys reported missing at least one day of school in the past month due to feeling unsafe. The researchers then examined how victimization impacted school outcomes. In LGB youth, victimization accounted for the disparities in school outcomes.
The study appeared in the American Journal of Public Health and was completed by Dr. Michelle Birkett, IMPACT Faculty at Northwestern University. Coauthors were Dr. Stephen Russell at the University of Arizona and Dr. Heather Corliss, currently at San Diego State University. Representative survey data was collected from over 50,000 high school students across 8 states. Data were taken from a pooled sample of the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.
Results confirm previous studies which have found greater victimization and worse school outcomes for LGB youth. Furthermore, the disparity in truancy and grades was largely mediated by experiences of victimization. Therefore, this study also supports the hypothesis that victimization experienced by LGB adolescents impacts their ability to perform academically. As early disparities in school success have indicated a lifetime of increased health and behavior risk factors, protecting LGB youth from victimization is necessary.
*Unfortunately, many school-based samples, such as the YRBS dataset, do not ask questions regarding transgender individuals or gender identity. This blog uses the term LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) as appropriate in referring to the study in question.
 Loeber, R. & Farrington, D.P. (2000). Young children who commit crime: epidemiology, developmental origins, risk factors, early interventions, and policy implications. Development and Psychopathology, 12(4):737–762.
 Hallfors, D., Vevea, J.L., Iritani, B., Cho, H., Khatapoush S., and Saxe. L. (2002). Truancy, grade point average, and sexual activity: a meta-analysis of risk indicators for youth substance use. Journal of School Health, 72(5):205–211.
 Robins, L.N. & Ratcliff, K.S. (1978). Long-Range Outcomes Associated with School Truancy. Washington, DC: Office of Public Health Service, USDHHS.
 Birkett, M., Russell, S.T., & Corliss, H.L. (2014). Sexual-Orientation Disparities in School: The Mediational Role of Indicators of Victimization in Achievement and Truancy Because of Feeling Unsafe. American Journal of Public Health, 104(6):1124-1128.