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Social Problems: 62 (2)

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Pamela Anne QuirozNilda Flores-González

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Adolescent Same-Sex Attraction and Academic Outcomes: The Role of School Attachment and Engagement

Jennifer Pearson , Chandra Muller , Lindsey Wilkinson
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/sp.2007.54.4.523 523-542 First published online: 1 November 2007

Abstract

Schools create environments in which some sexual feelings, behaviors, and relationships are stigmatized, and this may have negative consequences for adolescents with nonheterosexual romantic attractions. This stigma can lead them to withdraw and disengage from school at a critical time of preparation for adulthood, which can compromise opportunities for future success. Previous research has demonstrated that sexual minority youth report greater levels of school-related problems, including a weaker sense of attachment to school and more trouble with teachers and peers. This lack of social integration is likely to affect their educational success. Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and the newly collected Adolescent Health and Academic Achievement study provide the first opportunity to fully explore whether and to what extent same-sex attracted youth enter adulthood with an educational disadvantage. In this study, we examine (1) whether same-sex attracted adolescents have lower levels of academic success, (2) if their lower academic success is explained by a lack of social integration at school, and (3) whether these relationships differ for boys and girls. Results suggest that same-sex attracted students, particularly boys, do suffer academically, and that this is in part a result of school-related problems and risk factors such as emotional distress and substance use; however, a great deal of the disadvantage fails to be explained by these factors. Additionally, while same-sex attracted boys show poorer academic performance, same-sex attracted girls do not, suggesting that gender may shape how sexual minority youth experience and respond to marginalizing school environments.

  • adolescence
  • sexual minority youth
  • same-sex attraction
  • academic achievement
  • school attachment

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