The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Advancing Research with Sexual Minority Youth: Building a Social Work Research Agenda

Friday, January 18, 2013: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Marina 6 (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
Cluster: Sexual Orientation
Colleen M. Fisher, PhD, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Shelley L. Craig, PhD, LCSW, University of Toronto, Diane Elze, PhD, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Kenta Asakura, MSW, RSW, University of Toronto, N. Eugene Walls, PhD, University of Denver and Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW, San Francisco State University
Heightened media attention to anti-gay bullying and suicides by youth perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) has raised public awareness of some of the challenges facing sexual minority youth (SMY).  This increased public attention has spurred new efforts to presumably improve the lives of this often invisible population: countless “It Gets Better” videos were created, the White House held the first Conference on Homeless LGBT Youth, and the Student Non-Discrimination Act and Safe Schools Improvement Act were introduced in the U.S. House and Senate.    

Yet there remains a dearth of research on sexual minority populations, and on SMY in particular (Institute of Medicine, 2011).  Scholars in social work and elsewhere have continued to call for more SMY research over the past decade (e.g., D'Augelli & Grossman, 2006; Diamond, 2003; Elze, 2005; Savin-Williams, 2001).  Existing research documents SMY’s increased risk for certain negative outcomes compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts, including violence (D'Augelli, Grossman & Starks, 2008), homelessness (Reck, 2009), suicide (Eisenberg & Resnick, 2006), substance abuse (Marshal, Friedman, Stall & Thompson, 2009) and sexual risk-taking (Saewyc, Skay & Richens, 2006).  An important emerging area of research also highlights the protective factors that promote resilience among SMY, including family acceptance (Padilla, Crisp & Rew, 2010; Ryan, Russell & Huebner et al., 2010), “safe spaces” (Davis, Saltzburg & Locke, 2009; Walls, Kane & Wisneski, 2010), sexuality-related social support (Arnold & Bailey, 2009; Doty, Willoughby, Lindahl & Malik, 2010) and  evidence-informed interventions (Craig et al., 2012).  Much more research is needed, however, to build on these studies, expand our understanding of youths' lived experiences, and facilitate development of programs and policies tailored to address both the needs and strengths of this population.  With its emphasis on marginalized groups, systems perspective, and focus on social change, the social work profession is well positioned to take a leading role in a new wave of SMY research. 

This roundtable session proposes to develop a social work research agenda with sexual minority youth.  It will begin with a brief state of the science overview from the vantage points of five panelists at different stages in their research careers.  Based on their research experiences, and drawing on many years of combined practice experience with this population, panelists will discuss strategies for advancing a research agenda. Specifically, panelists will address the following questions: (1) How can we enhance research-community partnerships to support our research? (2) What methodological innovations could strengthen the quality of research in this area? (3) How can we move beyond individual-level research to address the systems impacting SMY? (4) How can we better disseminate our research findings and connect them to practice? and (5) What is the unique social work contribution in each of these areas?  Finally, we will invite the audience to join this dialogue on advancing social work scholarship in this area.  Our goal is to establish a social work research agenda for SMY and build momentum for a larger scale collaborative effort that will extend beyond this roundtable session.

See more of: Roundtables