The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Lgbtqq Youth Creating Change: Developing Allies Against Bullying Through Performance and Dialogue

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 11:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 002B River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Laura Wernick, PhD, Assistant Professor, Fordham University, Brooklyn, NY
Adrienne Dessel, PhD, Associate Director, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Alex Kulick, BA, Research Consultant, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Louis F. Graham, PhD, Assistant Research Scientist, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Background and Purpose: Safer and more inclusive school environments are critical for the positive development of all young people; however, particular challenges face lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) young people, and public schools in particular continue to struggle to meet the needs of these students. Research has begun to examine LGBTQQ young people’s experiences in school environments, particularly through programs like Gay-Straight Alliances. However, little research has examined the efficacy of anti-LGBTQQ bullying interventions, and to the best of our knowledge, no research has examined the use of youth-led performances and dialogues as an anti-bullying strategy. The present study used a mixed-methods design to assess the impact of one such intervention led by a community-based LGBTQQ and allied (LGBTQQA) youth organization. Specifically, we examine the effectiveness of their intervention in building allies among students as measured through their likelihood to intervene when witnessing anti-LGBTQQ bullying, and their confidence to do so.

Methods: To examine the efficacy of the intervention, paired pre- and post-tests were administered by members of the LGBTQQA youth organization to middle and high school students (8th-12th grade) who viewed a youth-led performance and participated in a post-performance dialogue (n = 502). Dependent quantitative items (using a 5-point Likert-type scale) measured participants’ likelihood to intervene and confidence to do so when witnessing anti-LGBTQ bullying/harassment. Paired open-ended items assessed participants’ perceptions of intervention through the question, “In which cases would you intervene and in which cases would you not?” Two pre-test only qualitative measures assessed current intervention behavior prior to the anti-bullying intervention through the questions, “Why have you intervened?” and “When you didn’t intervene, why didn’t you?” Open-ended responses were analyzed using a constant comparison analysis. Quantitative items were analyzed using two repeated measures general linear models. Cases with missing data were excluded in each analysis. Across both analyses, 20% of respondents identified as LGBTQQ, and 59% identified as white. The analytical sample for the model testing intervention intentions, 57% were cisgender men. The sample for the model testing confidence to intervene was 43% cisgender men.

Results: Repeated measures general linear modeling demonstrates a positive impact of this intervention on middle and high school students’ intentions to intervene when witnessing anti-LGBTQQ harassment [F(1, 492) = 21.83, p < .001] and confidence to successfully do so [F(1, 492) = 13.72, p < .001], particularly for White students [F(1, 492) = 2.82, p < .05]. Qualitative findings demonstrate barriers to intervention and decision-making processes of youth when intervening. Further, among respondents of Color, participants framed their intervention intentions on the importance of not being caught in the middle of “trouble” or “drama,” and not being perceived as causing problems.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest that youth-led anti-LGBTQQ bullying interventions can be an effective way to develop allies in schools. Performances and post-performance dialogues, in particular, might be effective ways to broach these topics in schools. Future research is needed to understand the differential impacts across race with a particular emphasis on translational validity issues.