Differences and similarities in mental health trajectories between sexual and gender minority youth



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LGBT youth experience disproportionate rates of compromised mental health when compared to cisgender heterosexual peers. Experiences of victimization, family acceptance, and disclosure of their sexual or gender minority identity to family members are important factors associated with mental health. Studies have often categorized LGBT identities as only one group, neglecting differences between cisgender sexual minorities (LGB) and transgender gender diverse (TGD) youth. Moreover, there are few longitudinal studies that examine LGBT youth's mental health over time. Data come from a four-wave longitudinal, community-based sample of 661 LGB and TGD youths between the ages of 15–21 at baseline (Mage = 18.53) from two large cities in the United States. This study aims to: (1) elucidate how LGB and TGD youth experiences of positive and negative affect change over time, (2) explore whether family acceptance, and outness to family change, and experiences of victimization accumulate over time, (3) investigate differences in those patterns for LGB or TGD youth, and (4) examine whether cumulative experiences of victimization, family acceptance, and outness to family are associated with positive and negative affect over time. Hierarchical Linear Modeling analyses show both LGB and TGD youth experienced increasing levels of victimization over time, but TGD youth experienced higher levels of victimization and more accumulation of victimization over time. LGB youth had increasing levels of family acceptance over time. Over time, both groups on average were more out to their families. Despite decreasing levels of negative affect over time among LGB and TGD youth, participants also reported slight decreases in self-esteem over time. Additionally, TGD youth reported lower overall positive affect and higher overall negative affect throughout the study. Cumulative experiences of victimization were associated with higher negative and lower positive affect while being out to family and being accepted by family was associated with lower negative and higher positive affect. Implications of this study's findings and future study directions are considered.


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