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The Politicization of Gay Youth Health: Response to Li, Katz-Wise, and Calzo (2014)

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... While much survey-based research suggests that students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning (LGBQ) are at elevated risk for a wide variety of negative outcomes-including suicide attempts, drug and alcohol use, sexual risk taking, being bullied, and facing disciplinary action (e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2016;Espelage, Aragon, Birkett, & Koenig, 2008;Mittleman, 2018;Robinson & Espelage, 2011;Russell, Sinclair, Poteat, & Koenig, 2012;Saewyc et al., 2004)-recent research has called into question the validity of the data on which many of these claims are based (e.g., Cimpian, 2017;Cimpian et al., 2018;Robinson-Cimpian, 2014;cf. Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014a, 2014b; but cf. Fish & Russell, 2018;Katz-Wise, Calzo, Li, & Pollitt, 2015;Li, Katz-Wise, & Calzo, 2014). ...
... More specifically, the research challenging the validity of the data argues that some of the youth completing the surveys may have been "jokesters" or "mischievous responders" who provided dubious responses possibly because they found it funny to claim they were not heterosexual on a survey and also to make other bogus claims about their risk and misconduct (Cimpian et al., 2018;Robinson-Cimpian, 2014;cf. Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014a, 2014b. For example, a student who identifies as heterosexual and does not use drugs may find it amusing to report on a survey that he identifies as gay and uses drugs often and heavily, thereby inflating estimates of gay-identified youth using drugs (see Fan et al., 2006, for similar argumentation and evidence with respect to adopted, foreign-born, and disabled statuses). ...
... There are exceptions, of course, such as Mittleman's (2018) recent use of the Fragile Families data set to examine differential disciplinary practices by sexual identity. The structure of that data set is more similar to the Add Health data set-which has contributed substantially to the LGBQ student literature, though its validity has recently come into question (Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014a, 2014bbut cf. Fish & Russell, 2018;Katz-Wise et al., 2015;Li et al., 2014)-with nonanonymized longitudinal data, different modes of survey administration, and questions of relatives and educators. ...
Article
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Although numerous survey-based studies have found that students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning (LGBQ) have elevated risk for many negative academic, disciplinary, psychological, and health outcomes, the validity of the types of data on which these results rest have come under increased scrutiny. Over the past several years, a variety of data-validity screening techniques have been used in attempts to scrub data sets of “mischievous responders,” youth who systematically provide extreme and untrue responses to outcome items and who tend to falsely report being LGBQ. We conducted a preregistered replication of Cimpian et al. with the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey to (1) estimate new LGBQ-heterosexual disparities on 20 outcomes; (2) test a broader, mechanistic theory relating mischievousness effects with a feature of items (i.e., item response-option extremity); and (3) compare four techniques used to address mischievous responders. Our results are consistent with Cimpian et al.’s findings that potentially mischievous responders inflate LGBQ-heterosexual disparities, do so more among boys than girls, and affect outcomes differentially. For example, we find that removing students suspected of being mischievous responders can cut male LGBQ-heterosexual disparities in half overall and can completely or mostly eliminate disparities in outcomes including fighting at school, driving drunk, and using cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy. Methodologically, we find that some methods are better than others at addressing the issue of data integrity, with boosted regressions coupled with data removal leading to potentially very large decreases in the estimates of LGBQ-heterosexual disparities, but regression adjustment having almost no effect. While the empirical focus of this article is on LGBQ youth, the issues discussed are relevant to research on other minority groups and youth generally, and speak to survey development, methodology, and the robustness and transparency of research.
... Considering recent debates about the reliability of measuring adolescent sexual orientation (Katz-Wise, Calzo, Li, & Pollitt, 2015;Li, Katz-Wise, & Calzo, 2014;Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014a, 2014b, data on sexual behavior were also analyzed as a reliability check. Sexual behavior was assessed using the Adolescent Sexual Activities Index (ASAI; Hansen, Paskett, & Carter, 1999). ...
... Nevertheless, in the current study the significance levels for the relations between childhood gender-typed behavior and adolescent sexual orientation remained largely unchanged after controlling for pubertal development statuses (Tables S4 & S5). Second, ongoing debates question whether adolescents accurately report their sexual orientation (Katz-Wise et al., 2015;Li et al., 2014;Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014a, 2014b. Although our measurement of sexual orientation at age 15 years appeared to be sufficiently reliable to detect similar relations to childhood gender nonconformity to those seen in prior studies, future research might usefully study this cohort at older ages. ...
Article
Lesbian and gay individuals have been reported to show more interest in other-sex, and/or less interest in same-sex, toys, playmates, and activities in childhood than heterosexual counterparts. Yet, most of the relevant evidence comes from retrospective studies or from prospective studies of clinically-referred, extremely gender nonconforming children. In addition, findings are mixed regarding the relationship between childhood gender-typed behavior and the later sexual orientation spectrum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively lesbian/gay. The current study drew a sample (2,428 girls and 2,169 boys) from a population-based longitudinal study, and found that the levels of gender-typed behavior at ages 3.50 and 4.75 years, although less so at age 2.50 years, significantly and consistently predicted adolescents’ sexual orientation at age 15 years, both when sexual orientation was conceptualized as two groups or as a spectrum. In addition, within-individual change in gender-typed behavior during the preschool years significantly related to adolescent sexual orientation, especially in boys. These results suggest that the factors contributing to the link between childhood gender-typed behavior and sexual orientation emerge during early development. Some of those factors are likely to be nonsocial, because nonheterosexual individuals appear to diverge from gender norms regardless of social encouragement to conform to gender roles.
... Wave III was used as the predictor. This inconsistency in findings based on the sexual orientation indicator seems to mirror a lack of consistency in participant reports of sexuality from Wave I and Wave III, which has already been addressed by researchers, using the Add Health dataset (see, e.g., Savin- Williams & Joyner, 2014a;Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014b, Li et al., 2014Katz-Wise et al., 2015). For example, Savin- Williams and Joyner (2014a) published an attempt to empirically assess the fluctuations in sexual preferences between the various waves of Add Health data collection. ...
... Wise, Calzo,Li, & Pollitt, 2015;Thompson & Morgan, 2008; Vrangalova & Savin-Williams, 2014). between Waves I/II and Waves III/IV (Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014a;Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014b;Savin-Williams & Ream, 2007). Three reasons have been put forth to explain these inconsistencies, either adolescents who reported same-sex attraction in earlier waves went "back in the closet" in later waves, participants misunderstood the meaning of "romantic attraction" in the earlier waves, or there was adolescent malfeasance in which participants intentionally marked an untrue response (Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014a).Although Savin-Williams & Joyner have settled mostly on the third explanation, other investigators have disagreed by noting errors in their empirical and theoretical reasoning (see, Li, Katz-Wise, & Calzo, 2014 and Katz-Wise, Calzo, Li, & Pollitt, 2015).Savin-Williams and Joyner (2014a) suggest using Wave III data as an indicator of sexual orientation. ...
Thesis
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Research has consistently shown that gay/lesbian/bisexual (GLB) or sexual minority youth are at an increased risk for adverse outcomes resulting from the stress caused by continual exposure to negative events (e.g., victimization, discrimination). The present study used a nationally representative sample of adolescents to test mechanisms that may be responsible for the differences in offending behaviors among sexual minority and heterosexual adolescents. Specifically, this study tested whether bisexual adolescents received less maternal support than did heterosexual adolescents because of their sexual orientation, thus increasing the likelihood that they run away from home. This study then examined whether the greater likelihood that bisexual adolescents running away would lead to them committing a significantly higher variety of income-based offenses, but not a significantly higher variety of aggression-based offenses. This study tested the hypothesized mediation model using two separate indicators of sexual orientation measured at two different time points, modeled outcomes in two ways, as well as estimated the models separately for boys and girls. Structural equation modeling was used to test the hypothesized direct and indirect relations. Results showed support for maternal support and running away mediating the relations between sexual orientation and offending behaviors for the model predicting the likelihood of committing either an aggressive or an income offense, but only for girls who identified as bisexual in early adulthood. Results did not support these relations for the other models, suggesting that bisexual females have unique needs when it comes to prevention and intervention. Results also highlight the need for a greater understanding of sexual orientation measurement methodology.
... Considering recent debates about the reliability of measuring adolescent sexual orientation (Katz-Wise, Calzo, Li, & Pollitt, 2015;Li, Katz-Wise, & Calzo, 2014;Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014a, 2014b, data on sexual behavior were also analyzed as a reliability check. Sexual behavior was assessed using the Adolescent Sexual Activities Index (ASAI; Hansen, Paskett, & Carter, 1999). ...
... Nevertheless, in the current study the significance levels for the relations between childhood gender-typed behavior and adolescent sexual orientation remained largely unchanged after controlling for pubertal development statuses (Tables S4 & S5). Second, ongoing debates question whether adolescents accurately report their sexual orientation (Katz-Wise et al., 2015;Li et al., 2014;Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014a, 2014b. Although our measurement of sexual orientation at age 15 years appeared to be sufficiently reliable to detect similar relations to childhood gender nonconformity to those seen in prior studies, future research might usefully study this cohort at older ages. ...
Article
Full-text available
Lesbian and gay individuals have been reported to show more interest in other-sex, and/or less interest in same-sex, toys, playmates, and activities in childhood than heterosexual counterparts. Yet, most of the relevant evidence comes from retrospective studies or from prospective studies of clinically referred, extremely gender nonconforming children. In addition, findings are mixed regarding the relation between childhood gender-typed behavior and the later sexual orientation spectrum from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively lesbian/gay. The current study drew a sample (2,428 girls and 2,169 boys) from a population-based longitudinal study, and found that the levels of gender-typed behavior at ages 3.5 and 4.75 years, although less so at age 2.5 years, significantly and consistently predicted adolescents' sexual orientation at age 15 years, both when sexual orientation was conceptualized as 2 groups or as a spectrum. In addition, within-individual change in gender-typed behavior during the preschool years significantly related to adolescent sexual orientation, especially in boys. These results suggest that the factors contributing to the link between childhood gender-typed behavior and sexual orientation emerge during early development. Some of those factors are likely to be nonsocial, because nonheterosexual individuals appear to diverge from gender norms regardless of social encouragement to conform to gender roles. (PsycINFO Database Record)
... Despite, or perhaps because of, the use of probability-sampling methods, sexual minorities represented a small number of participants, forcing the aggregation of LGB youth into a single group. Our study may also have underreported the number of SMAs, given social desirability biases in schoolbased survey research (Lillehoj, Griffin, & Spoth, 2004;Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014). Although underreporting may suggest fewer sexual minorities existed in our sample than there are, it would not have caused spurious findings to emerge. ...
Article
Bullying has a long-lasting effect on both victims and their perpetrators; however, there is little literature dedicated to understanding the roles of sexual minority adolescents beyond being a victim or the specific types of bullying behaviors (verbal, relational, physical) in which sexual minority adolescents engage. Even less is known about the experiences of mostly heterosexual youth, as distinct from their lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) peers. This exploratory study sought to identify sexual orientation differences in bullying behavior participation using a random cluster sample obtained from a county school district in the Southeastern United States. The sample included 3,463 middle and high school students from 66 schools. Four latent classes of bullies and victims emerged, with similar patterns of behaviors for heterosexual, mostly heterosexual, and LGB groups.
... Population-based findings rank bisexuals as the largest sexual minority group in the United States (Copen, Chandra, & Febo-Vazquez, 2016;Gates, 2011;Herbenick et al., 2010;Pew Research Center, 2013), and the Institute of Medicine (2011) has called for more bisexual health research-including for adolescents. Savin-Williams and Joyner (2014) further argued that bisexuals appear to partially or fully explain some of the health disparities documented among sexual minorities and heterosexuals across multiple studies (Lindley, Walsemann, & Carter Jr., 2012;Loosier & Dittus, 2010). Given these factors, the historical convention of combining all sexual minority data or excluding bisexuals altogether may obscure meaningful group-based differences in sexual minority health outcomes (Bostwick & Hequembourg, 2013;Kaestle & Ivory, 2012) and is rather surprising given longstanding recognition of diverse psychosocial profiles among bisexuals relative to monosexual (e.g., people that are attracted to a single gender) minorities (Weinberg, Williams, & Pryor, 1994). ...
Article
Objective: We explored the internal structure of within-group variation in the syndemic construct among bisexual adolescents, an understudied and highly vulnerable population known to experience health disparities compared with monosexuals (those attracted to a single gender). We sought to identify patterns of co-occurrence among three domains of high priority behavioral risks-sexual risk factors, substance use, and victimization-and their implications for suicidality. Method: We used a national sample of 1,053 ethnically/racially diverse, high school age bisexual adolescents drawn from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). We applied latent class analysis (LCA) to 15 indicators measuring the three aforementioned domains and modeled predictors and an outcome of class membership. Results: Within-group variation in the syndemic construct appears categorical, systematic, and comprised of Low Risk (38%), Alcohol Use (20%), Peer-victimization (14%), Sexually Active (11%), Syndemic (11%), and Risk-taking (7%) classes. Classes were well-separated per classification statistics. The proportions of bisexual identification, sex, and race varied significantly across classes. Syndemic and Peer-victimization classes were equivalent and elevated in their suicidality risk, out of all classes. Conclusions: Results revealed multiple and diverging forms of conjoint behavioral risk that conferred differential health implications; illuminated the shape and functional form of the syndemic construct among bisexual adolescents; and illustrated the utility of LCA for classifying typologies of risky and normative health behavior patterns. Psychologists are recommended to carefully consider the comorbidly operant nature of behavioral risks in this population. Future directions include addressing replication, multiple-group invariance, additional auxiliary variables, and alternative mixture techniques. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).
... Our intent here is neither to resurface nor to adjudicate debate on the validity of AddHealth data on SMY (Katz-Wise, Calzo, Li, & Pollitt, 2015;Li, Katz-Wise, & Calzo, 2014;Savin-Williams & Joyner, 2014a, 2014b; however, we would be remiss if we did not provide a few comments since the main debate on that topic occurred in the Archives and since our recent methodological work has some bearing on how to evaluate similar data. The AddHealth data have their strengths and their limitations, and it is clear that there are mischievous responders in those data with respect to the dimensions researchers can verify through data triangulation (Fan, 2003;Fan et al., 2006). ...
Article
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer/questioning youth health disparities are well documented; however, study limitations restrict our understanding of how the temporal interplay among domains of sexuality (attraction, behavior, and identity) situate individuals to be more or less at risk for poor mental health and alcohol use across the transition to adulthood. Four waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (n = 12,679; 51.29 % female) were used with repeated measures latent class analysis to estimate sexual trajectory groups designated by prospective reports of romantic attraction, sexual/romantic behavior, and sexual identity from adolescence to adulthood. Five unique trajectories emerged: two heterosexual groups (heterosexual early daters [58.37 %] and heterosexual later daters [29.83 %]) and three sexual minority groups (heteroflexible [6.44 %], later bisexually identified [3.32 %], and LG[B] identified [2.03 %]). These sexual trajectories differentiate risk for depressive symptomology, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and alcohol use during adolescence and early adulthood. Groups where individuals first reported same-sex attraction and sexual minority identities in adulthood (heteroflexible and later bisexually identified) had similar levels of depression, suicidality, and greater substance use than those who largely reported same-sex attraction and behavior during adolescence (the LG[B] identified group). These later recognition groups showed greater risk for poor outcomes in waves where they also first reported these changes in attraction, behaviors, and identities. The emergence of three sexual minority groups reveal within-group differences in sexuality and sexual trajectories and how these experiences relate to risk and timing of risk across the transition to adulthood.
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A number of studies have indicated that gay men tend to be shorter, on average, than heterosexual men. Less evidence exists that lesbian women are taller, on average, than heterosexual women. The most popular explanation of the association between sexual orientation and height involves prenatal factors, such that, for example, gay men may have been exposed to lower than typical androgens during fetal development, which impacts their height and sexual orientation as adults. An alternative explanation involves stress, given that stress has been associated with sexual minority identification and with lower height. Another alternative explanation involves nutrition, although its relationship is less clear with sexual minority identification. Using the Add Health data, which is a large, nationally representative and longitudinal sample of American adolescents (n = 14,786), we tested a mediation model, such that sexual orientation → pubertal stress/nutrition → height. Within men, we found that gay men (n = 126) were shorter, on average, than heterosexual men (n = 6412). None of the 24 pubertal stress-related and 15 pubertal nutrition-related variables assessed in the Add Health data mediated the relationship between sexual orientation and height in men. Within women, lesbians (n = 75) did not differ significantly in stature compared to heterosexual women (n = 6267). Thus, prenatal mechanisms (e.g., hormones, maternal immune response) are likely better candidates for explaining the height difference between gay men and heterosexual men.
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Previous research suggests that sexual minority youth have poorer health-related outcomes than their heterosexual peers. The purpose of this study is to determine whether sexual orientation disparities in mental health and substance use increase, decrease, or remain the same during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Data are from Waves 1-4 of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (n = 8,322; 55% female). Respondents were in grades 7-12 at Wave 1 and aged 24-32 at Wave 4. Latent growth curve modeling is used to compare the mental health and substance use trajectories of youth who consistently report heterosexual attraction versus those who consistently report lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) attraction, those who report a transition to LGB attraction, and those who report a transition to heterosexual attraction. Among women and men, sexual orientation disparities in depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts persist, but do not increase, during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The same pattern is observed for disparities in smoking, heavy drinking, and marijuana use among women. Among men, disparities in substance use are only observed between those who report consistent heterosexual attraction and those who transition to heterosexual attraction. Disparities between these groups persist over time for heavy drinking and marijuana use but decrease over time for smoking. While this study finds evidence of numerous disparities in mental health and substance use outcomes during adolescence and young adulthood, particularly among young women, there is no indication that these disparities get larger over time.
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The purpose of this study was to highlight associations between sexual orientation and risk outcomes in late adolescence and early adulthood using an expanded measure of sexual orientation. Recent data indicate higher levels of risk behavior in a newly identified population, mostly heterosexuals, as compared to heterosexuals. Comparisons among groups using an expanded measure of sexual orientation such as this, however, often do not include all possible groups or may restrict comparisons between groups. Data were derived from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health); participants identified as heterosexual, mostly heterosexual, bisexual, mostly gay, or gay. Main risk outcomes were parental mistreatment, home displacement, thoughts of suicide, depressive symptoms, frequency of drinking, and delinquency. A priori planned comparisons examined differences between: (a) heterosexual vs. mostly heterosexual, (b) gay vs. mostly gay, (c) mostly heterosexual vs. bisexual, (d) mostly gay vs. bisexual, (e) mostly heterosexual vs. mostly gay, (f) heterosexual vs. gay, (g) heterosexual vs. bisexual, and (h) gay vs. bisexual. Mostly heterosexual youth were at significantly greater risk than heterosexual youth on all outcomes but did not differ from bisexual or mostly gay youth. Heterosexuals were at lower risk as compared to mostly heterosexuals and bisexuals. This study provides further evidence of differential risk associations for sexual minorities.
Article
This study is one of the first to examine the association between sexual orientation and health risk behaviors among a representative, school-based sample of adolescents. This study was conducted on an anonymous, representative sample of 4159 9th- to 12th-grade students in public high schools from Massachusetts' expanded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1995 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Sexual orientation was determined by the following question: "Which of the following best describes you?" A total of 104 students self-identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual (GLB), representing 2.5% of the overall population. Of GLB youth, 66.7% were male and 70% were white (not Hispanic). Health risk and problem behaviors were analyzed comparing GLB youth and their peers. Those variables found to be significantly associated with GLB youth were then analyzed by multiple logistic regression models. GLB youth were more likely than their peers to have been victimized and threatened and to have been engaged in a variety of risk behaviors including suicidal ideation and attempts, multiple substance use, and sexual risk behaviors. Four separate logistic regression models were constructed. Model I, Onset of Behaviors Before Age 13, showed use of cocaine before age 13 years as strongly associated with GLB orientation (odds ratio [OR]: 6.10; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.45-15.20). Early initiation of sexual intercourse (2.15; 10.6-4.38), marijuana use (1.98; 1.04-4.09), and alcohol use (1.82; 1.03-3.23) also was associated with GLB orientation. Model II, Lifetime Frequencies of Behaviors, showed that frequency of crack cocaine use (1.38; 1.06-1.79), inhalant use (1.30; 1.05-1.61), and number of sexual partners (1.27; 1.06-1.43) was associated with GLB orientation. Model III, Frequency of Recent Behaviors, showed smokeless tobacco use in the past 30 days (1.38; 1. 20-1.59) and number of sexual partners in the previous 3 months (1. 47; 1.31-1.65) were associated with GLB orientation. Model IV, Frequency of Behaviors at School, showed having one's property stolen or deliberately damaged (1.23; 1.08-1.40) and using marijuana (1.29; 1.05-1.59) and smokeless tobacco (1.53; 1.30-1.81) were associated with GLB orientation. Overall, GLB respondents engaged disproportionately in multiple risk behaviors, reporting an increased mean number of risk behaviors (mean = 6.81 +/- 4.49) compared with the overall student population (mean = 3.45 +/- 3.15). GLB youth who self-identify during high school report disproportionate risk for a variety of health risk and problem behaviors, including suicide, victimization, sexual risk behaviors, and multiple substance use. In addition, these youth are more likely to report engaging in multiple risk behaviors and initiating risk behaviors at an earlier age than are their peers. These findings suggest that educational efforts, prevention programs, and health services must be designed to address the unique needs of GLB youth.
The gayer, the better: Sexual orientation and positive attributes in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. Poster presented at the Annual Winter Roundtable Conference at Teachers College
  • N Antebi
  • R C Savin-Williams
Antebi, N., & Savin-Williams, R. C. (2014). The gayer, the better: Sexual orientation and positive attributes in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. Poster presented at the Annual Winter Roundtable Conference at Teachers College. New York.