Researchers are increasingly challenged to keep pace with the continual evolution of sexual minority youths' identities and needs as well as the shifting sociopolitical and cultural contexts in which they occur (Elze, 2005; Martin & D'Augelli, 2009). Sexual minority youth "challenge us to rethink the very status of gender, generation, sexuality, and culture, and they push us to become nuanced in the ways we read, watch, and listen to young people telling their own stories and envisioning their own futures" (Driver, 2008, p.1). Thus, innovative research methods are needed which extend our understanding, engage these youth in the research process, and honor their unique experiences and stories.
Framed in the history of research with sexual minority youth, the presentations in this symposium address risk, identity and engagement among sexual minority youth and suggest innovative approaches to advance knowledge in this area. The first study identifies contextual risk factors and psychosocial outcomes related to homelessness among sexual minority youth, underscoring the persistent disproportionate risks compared to heterosexual peers and the need for innovative transitional living programs such as Q-Block in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The second study explores three approaches to research with multi-ethnic sexual minority youth, highlighting new knowledge about identity classification and creative strategies for engaging sexual minority youth and communities in research. The third study, the first known systematic review on bullying victimization among sexual minority youth, examines key risk factors and offers strategies for narrowing the gap between this research and the general adolescent bullying literature. The fourth study uses an innovative mixed method approach with sexual minority youth to explore the contexts in which sexual identity development occurs, illustrating the potential benefits of this method for improving data collection and engaging youth in the research process.
Collectively, these presentations advance our knowledge of the emerging risks, identity development, and engagement of sexual minority youth, each identifying key strengths and limitations of current research approaches. Together with the concluding discussion, moderated by a leading social work researcher in this area, these presentations also create an integrated road map for social work researchers and provide an opportunity to collectively consider effective research that truly makes a difference for sexual minority youth.