Methods: Latino and Black Caribbean sexual minority youth (n=273) were identified using venue based sampling in a large-scale survey study conducted at 15 urban high schools. Independent measures included age, race/ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and the Perceived Discrimination Scale (PDS) (Kessler, Mikelson & Williams, 1999). Supportive domains were identified through the Social Support Scale (SSS), consisting of family and peer sub-scales and GSA involvement. School adjustment included measures of attendance, discipline and academic achievement. Structural equation modeling (SEM) techniques were used to test multivariate relationships resulting in a model detailing the impact on school adjustment. AMOS 7.0 and MPlus 5.2 software facilitated analysis.
Results: The majority of participants identified as female (60%), bisexual (40%), and first generation immigrants (74%). Mean age was 16. The best fitting model had values of x2 (14, p = > .703) = 10.21; CFI = 1.00; GFI =.989; RMSEA = .000 with a p-value of close-fit of .91. Examination of model path coefficients revealed that school adjustment is influenced by social support factors, as well as by perceived discrimination. Importantly, findings indicated that increases in individual support directly increased school adjustment for bisexual females, while community supports led to fewer discipline problems for all students. Furthermore, sexual minority youth whose parents recently immigrated were less likely to skip school.
Conclusions and Implications: Positive school adjustment is critical to the successful navigation of adolescent development. This study provides meaningful information regarding potential risk and protective factors associated with school adjustment that addresses the variability among sexual and ethnic minority youth (Elze, 2007). Specifically, findings suggest that interventions aimed at increased individual and community support of sexual minority youth may be critical to improving school adjustment among this high risk population. Social work research and practice should cultivate school-based support opportunities that attend to the unique needs of sexual minority youth of color.