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Title:Social and community support among nonmetropolitan gender and sexual minority youth: a mixed methods study
Author(s):Paceley, Megan S
Director of Research:Liechty, Janet; Oswald, Ramona F.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Liechty, Janet; Oswald, Ramona F.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Lough, Benjamin; Greene, Jennifer C.; Craig, Shelley
Department / Program:School of Social Work
Discipline:Social Work
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
community climate
positive youth development
LGBT youth
social support
LGBT community centers
Abstract:Gender and sexual minority (GSM) youth are growing up in a society that stigmatizes and marginalizes their identities, placing them at increased risk of victimization, physical and mental health problems, and educational disparities compared to heterosexual and cisgender youth. Rural GSM youth are at equal or greater risk for these negative outcomes than urban GSM youth. In spite of their risks, positive youth development (PYD) theory contends that all youth have the potential to thrive when their strengths are aligned with positive resources in their environment. Research aimed at reducing risk and promoting well-being for GSM youth has focused on urban youth in school settings; few studies have examined the role of communities, GSM community centers, and social supports in increasing or reducing risk among GSM youth living in varying community sizes. Additionally, although empirical evidence exists in support of PYD, this theory has rarely been used with GSM youth. The purpose of this study was to a) address the gaps in the literature on GSM youth and PYD by attending to the ways in which communities impact the provision of social and community support; and b) enhance understanding of the ways in which GSM youth living in rural, small, and mid-size communities get their needs for support met. A mixed methods design involved concurrent data collection from four sources. 1) Online surveys measuring perceived community climate, social support, and GSM community resources were administered to 14-18 year old GSM youth in Illinois (N=338). 2) A community climate protocol involved analyzing public data to measure community climate objectively at the county and municipal levels; public data were aggregated and merged with surveys by participant zip code. 3) In-depth interviews assessing youth’s perceptions of their communities, community climate, social support, and community GSM resources were conducted with 14-18 year old GSM youth in Central and Southern Illinois (n=34). 4) Participant observations were conducted with a GSM community center youth program (n=20 hours). Quantitative data were analyzed using bivariate, ANOVA, and logistic regression analyses. Qualitative data were analyzed using grounded theory methods. Qualitative and quantitative data were integrated using the mixed methods analytic strategies of data comparison and typology development. Findings from this study illustrated complexities around the role of the community in increasing or reducing risk. Survey and climate analyses revealed that community climate and community size were significantly associated with the availability of GSM community-based resources, such that more supportive climates and larger communities had more resources. Community climate and size were not associated with utilization or unmet needs for GSM resources. Climate was also related to perceived social support among GSM adults and non-GSM peers; however, community size was not. Qualitative and mixed method analyses led to the development of an emergent model of support seeking among GSM youth in nonmetropolitan and small metropolitan communities. This model illustrates the importance of the community context for GSM youth. The community interacted with GSM youth’s needs for and potential sources of support, barriers and facilitators to support, benefits and drawbacks of support, and unmet needs. These findings suggest the need for a revised model of PYD that represents the experiences of GSM youth in small communities. The findings from this study have the potential to advance GSM youth and PYD research by attending to the role of communities, community climate, GSM community centers, and other sources of support for GSM youth in nonmetropolitan communities. Additionally, they serve to disrupt the narrative surrounding rural communities as inherently hostile toward GSM people. Implications for research, theory, policy, and practice are discussed.
Issue Date:2015-04-13
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Megan Paceley
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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