Project

Project #Queery: The Influence of Information and Communication Technologies on the Resilience and Coping of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in the United States and Canada

Goal: Project #Queery, an online mixed methods survey project, has five specific objectives: (1) investigate the use of ICTs by SGMY; (2) identify the ways in which ICTs influence the resilience and coping of SGMY, focusing on promotion of wellbeing through self-guided support-seeking (particularly using mobile devices); (3) develop a contextually relevant theoretical conceptualization of resilience incorporating minority stress and ecological approaches, (4) generate best practices and materials that are accessible to multiple interested groups, and (5) identify whether video narratives are a viable alternative to collect qualitative responses in online surveys for youth.

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Project log

Andrew Eaton
added a research item
Social media sites offer critical opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and other sexual and/or gender minority (LGBTQ+) youth to enhance well-being through exploring their identities, accessing resources, and connecting with peers. Yet extant measures of youth social media use disproportionately focus on the detrimental impacts of online participation, such as overuse and cyberbullying. This study developed a Social Media Benefits Scale (SMBS) through an online survey with a diverse sample ( n = 6,178) of LGBTQ+ youth aged 14–29. Over three-quarters of the sample endorsed non-monosexual and/or and gender fluid identities (e.g., gender non-conforming, non-binary, pansexual, bisexual). Participants specified their five most used social media sites and then indicated whether they derived any of 17 beneficial items (e.g., feeling connected, gaining information) with the potential to enhance well-being from each site. An exploratory factor analysis determined the scale’s factor structure. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and Sheffe post hoc tests examined age group differences. A four-factor solution emerged that measures participants’ use of social media for: (1) emotional support and development, (2) general educational purposes, (3) entertainment, and (4) acquiring LGBTQ+-specific information. Bartlett’s test of sphericity was significant (χ ² = 40,828, p < .0005) and the scale had an alpha of .889. There were age group differences for all four factors ( F = 3.79–75.88, p < .05). Younger adolescents were generally more likely to use social media for beneficial factors than older youth. This article discusses the scale’s development, exploratory properties, and implications for research and professional practice.
Andrew Eaton
added a research item
Sexual and gender minority youth (SGMY) often lack support to navigate their minority identities and elevated psychosocial risks. When their offline environment presents challenges to wellbeing, many SGMY turn to internet-enabled information and communication technologies (ICTs) to develop identities, cope with daily stressors, and access support. However, online environments also contain negativity, including comments which display anti-sexual and gender minority (SGM) biases. Such content differs from cyberbullying, which is typically intentional and perpetrated by offline peers. It is critical to understand how SGMY cope with negative comments online, as these interactions may threaten important contexts of coping and resilience. This grounded theory and integrative mixed methods study explored the online experiences of SGMY from the United States and Canada (n = 5,243), to identify the range and influence of negative comments on their coping strategies. Participants were primarily adolescents (M = 18.22, SD = 3.61), pansexual, (30.1%, n = 1,576), and cis female, (41.1%, n = 2,592). Open, axial, and selective coding were employed to generate seven themes: appraising, avoiding, responding, adaptive coping, maladaptive coping, impacting wellbeing, and a non-issue; resulting in a model of how SGMY cope with negative comments online. Findings highlight the complex ways that SGMY deal with online negativity. Considerations for research and practice are provided.
Andrew Eaton
added a research item
Background Trauma, specifically adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), predicts significant health and mental health disparities, yet there is a paucity of research with LGBTQ + youth. Objective This study explored ACE prevalence in a large sample of LGBTQ+ youth; examined ACE patterns within and across subgroups; and compared results with the general population. Participants and setting Participant (n = 3,508) ages ranged between 14–18 (x̄ = 16.02) and represented a range of sexual orientations: pansexual (33.9 %), bisexual (26.6 %), and queer (16.2 %), and gender identities: female (39.9 %), non-conforming (38 %), male (14.9 %), and transgender (16.6 %). Methods An online cross-sectional survey was conducted with LGBTQ+ youth ages 14–18 that self-identified as LGBTQ+ and resided in the US or Canada. Descriptive statistics generated the prevalence of ACEs, and ANOVAs and post-hoc tests were run for comparisons. Results Participants reported multiple ACEs (M = 3.14, SD = 2.44) with emotional neglect (58 %), emotional abuse (56 %), and living with a family member with mental illness (51 %) as the most prevalent. Notably, 43 % of participants experienced 4+ ACEs, considered to be a high level of trauma exposure. Compared to national samples, LGBTQ + youth demonstrated unique patterns of ACEs and were higher in 9 of 10 categories. Significantly high (all p < .001) ACEs were found in pansexual (t = 7.67), transgender and gender non-conforming (t = 5.19), American-Indian (t = 6.42), Latinx (t = 2.83) and rural youth (F = 12.12) while those with highly educated parents (F = 83.30, p < .001), lived with a parent (t = 6.02), and in Canada (t = 6.14) reported fewer ACEs. Conclusion LGBTQ+ youth experience significant childhood trauma with potential impact on their mental health. This study identifies implications for trauma-informed practice and research.
Andrew Eaton
added a research item
Despite increasing scholarship on sexual minority youth (SMY), little is known about the experiences and outcomes of those who identify as asexual. This study investigates how internal and external stressors, mental health, and health risk behaviours differ between asexual youth and other SMY. The study uses a sub-group analysis (n = 5,314) of an online survey of self-identified sexual and gender minority youth (SGMY). Descriptive and inferential statistics compare asexual (n = 669) to non-asexual (n = 4,645) respondents across two developmental phases—adolescence (age 14-19) and young adulthood (age 20-25)—while accounting for gender minority (e.g., transgender) self-identification. Results indicate that asexual youth had significantly higher internalised LGBTQ-phobia and tended to have poorer mental health (e.g., higher rates of depression), while having experienced less interpersonal discrimination/prejudice and having engaged in fewer health risk behaviours (e.g., substance use). Findings have implications for clinical practice. Future research should continue to investigate the impact of risk and protective factors on outcomes for asexual young people.
Andrew Eaton
added a research item
LGBTQ+ youth experience negative health and wellbeing outcomes resulting from the stress of marginalization and unsupportive environments. Further, access to LGBTQ+ community resources often vary based on geographical factors. Previous research has focused on the risks of online spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, and has perceived offline environments as a primary source of community and social support. This study explored the role of offline and online social supports on the relationship between environmental factors and LGBTQ+ esteem for LGBTQ+ youth in the southern United States, a region that has historically been under-resourced. Findings suggest that the online LGBTQ+-specific social support youth in this sample received significantly moderated the impact of LGBTQ-specific stressors on LGBTQ+ esteem, and offline social support was not a significant moderator. Researchers and practitioners should explore the value of online spaces for youth who may not have access to the same level and kind of offline resources needed to promote coping and resilience as compared to youth in communities with high resource density.
Andrew Eaton
added 16 research items
Background: Sexual and Gender Minority Youth (SGMY) often lack support navigating their minority identities and psychosocial risks. When their offline environment presents challenges or barriers to wellbeing, many SGMY turn to information and communication technologies to develop identities, cope with daily stressors, and find supportive communities. However, online spaces also contain negativity and bias. Such discrimination differs from cyberbullying which is typically focused, intentional, and often perpetrated by offline peers. It is critical to understand how SGMY cope with negative comments online, as these interactions may threaten important sources of coping, identity development, and resilience. Aims: To identify the range and influence of negative comments on SGMY coping strategies. Methods: This sample (n=5,243) was drawn from a 2016 mixed-methods, cross-sectional online survey of SGMY aged 14-29 from the United States and Canada. Open-ended responses on managing online negativity were analyzed using grounded theory. Seven independent coders used open, axial, and selective coding to generate themes from the data. Results: Participants were age-diverse (M=18.22, SD=3.61) from sexual identities that include: pansexual/panromantic (30.1%, n=1,576) and bisexual/biromantic (26.2%, 1,373). Gender identities included: woman (41.1%, n=2,592) and non-binary (23.9%, n=1,506). Most were online >5 hours per day (46.5%, n=2,932) and most frequently accessed YouTube (75.1%, n=4,736) and Facebook (75%, n=4,732). Seven themes emerged: appraising, avoiding, responding, adaptive coping, maladaptive coping, impacting wellbeing, and a non-issue, resulting in a model which illuminates that SGMY cope with online negativity in nuanced and complex ways. Discussion/conclusion: Participants articulated multiple examples of coping strategies in the face of a barrage of negativity. Understanding how this negativity impacts SGMY and the internal, social, and technological resources that they use to overcome adversity can foster more effective research and practice. This study could encourage future research that further explores online SGMY experiences and their resulting resilience processes.
Online research methodologies may serve as an important mechanism for population-focused data collection in social work research. Online surveys have become increasingly prevalent in research inquiries with young people and have been acknowledged for their potential in investigating understudied and marginalized populations and subpopulations, permitting increased access to communities that tend to be less visible—and thus often less studied—in offline contexts. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) young people are a socially stigmatized, yet digitally active, youth population whose participation in online surveys has been previously addressed in the literature. Many of the opportunities and challenges of online survey research identified with LGBTQ youths may be highly relevant to other populations of marginalized and hard-to-access young people, who are likely present in significant numbers in the online environment (for example, ethnoracialized youths and low-income youths). In this article, the utility of online survey methods with marginalized young people is discussed, and recommendations for social work research are provided.
Andrew Eaton
added a research item
LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc.) youth are at increased risk for negative outcomes. Yet little is known about their engagement with communities and resources that may ameliorate risk, particularly online. Oriented by a uses and gratifications approach, this secondary analysis (n = 4,009) of LGBTQ+ youth (aged 14-29) compares online versus offline experiences. Respondents were significantly more likely to participate in LGBTQ+ communities online. Youth were also more active, and felt safer and more supported, when participating in online LGBTQ+ communities. Additionally, respondents sought online information, support, and resources at higher rates than offline. Increased attention toward online programming and resource development is warranted.
Shelley L Craig
added a research item
Internet-based new media is increasingly utilized by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer [LGBTQ] youth, yet little is known about the ways in which it influences their identity development. Employing grounded theory, this study explores the influence of online media on the identity development and coming out processes (n = 19) of LGBTQ youth. Results indicate that new media enabled participants to access resources, explore identity, find likeness, and digitally engage in coming out. Participants also discussed the expansion of these newly developed identities into their offline lives. Practice implications are addressed.
Andrew Eaton
added a research item
Background: Sexual and gender minority youth are a population in peril, exemplified by their disproportionate risk of negative experiences and outcomes. Sexual and gender minority youth may be particularly active users of information and communication technologies (ICTs), and it is important to identify the potential contributions of ICTs to their resilience and well-being. Objective: Our aim was to (1) investigate the use of ICTs by sexual and gender minority youth, (2) identify the ways that ICTs influence the resilience and coping of sexual and gender minority youth, focusing on promotion of well-being through self-guided support-seeking (particularly using mobile devices), (3) develop a contextually relevant theoretical conceptualization of resilience incorporating minority stress and ecological approaches, (4) generate best practices and materials that are accessible to multiple interested groups, and (5) identify whether video narratives are a viable alternative to collect qualitative responses in Web-based surveys for youth. Methods: Mixed methods, cross-sectional data (N=6309) were collected via a Web-based survey from across the United States and Canada from March-July 2016. The sample was generated using a multipronged, targeted recruitment approach using Web-based strategies and consists of self-identified English-speaking sexual and gender minority youth aged 14-29 with technological literacy sufficient to complete the Web-based survey. The survey was divided into eight sections: (1) essential demographics, (2) ICT usage, (3) health and mental health, (4) coping and resilience, (5) sexual and gender minority youth identities and engagement, (6) fandom communities, (7) nonessential demographics, and (8) a video submission (optional, n=108). The option of a 3-5 minute video submission represents a new research innovation in Web-based survey research. Results: Data collection is complete (N=6309), and analyses are ongoing. Proposed analyses include (1) structural equation modeling of quantitative data, (2) grounded theory analysis of qualitative data, and (3) an integrative, mixed methods analysis using a data transformation design. Theoretical and methodological triangulation of analyses integrates an interwoven pattern of results into a comprehensive picture of a phenomenon. Results will be reported in 2017 and 2018. Conclusions: This research study will provide critical insights into the emerging use of ICTs by sexual and gender minority youth and identify intervention strategies to improve their well-being and reduce risks encountered by this vulnerable population. Implications for practice, research, and knowledge translation are provided. Full text available here: http://www.researchprotocols.org/2017/9/e189/
Lauren McInroy
added a project goal
Project #Queery, an online mixed methods survey project, has five specific objectives: (1) investigate the use of ICTs by SGMY; (2) identify the ways in which ICTs influence the resilience and coping of SGMY, focusing on promotion of wellbeing through self-guided support-seeking (particularly using mobile devices); (3) develop a contextually relevant theoretical conceptualization of resilience incorporating minority stress and ecological approaches, (4) generate best practices and materials that are accessible to multiple interested groups, and (5) identify whether video narratives are a viable alternative to collect qualitative responses in online surveys for youth.