Abstract: Understanding Campus Climate, Mental Health, and Academic Development Among LGBTQ2S+ University Students in Ontario (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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616P Understanding Campus Climate, Mental Health, and Academic Development Among LGBTQ2S+ University Students in Ontario

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Michael Woodford, PhD, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Kitchener, ON, Canada
Simon Coulombe, PhD, Assistant Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada
Zack Marshall, PhD, Assistant Professor, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Background: Though research on LGBTQ2S+ campus climate and student outcomes is growing, little is known about the role of intersecting identities and resilience factors, including institution-level factors. Moreover, because of the use of variable-centered analysis approaches (e.g., linear regression), extant research provides a fragmented picture by examining relationships between a few specific variables (e.g., discrimination and depression) rather than considering a set of climate and wellbeing indicators holistically and how their interrelationships vary between LGBTQ2S+ subgroups.

Guided by minority stress, positive psychology, intersectionality, and campus climate theories, among an Ontario-wide convenience sample of LGBTQ2S + university students, we identify profiles of campus climate and student wellbeing, both mental health and academic development, and examine how profile membership relates to students’ race, gender, and disability status, and multi-level resilience factors, namely campus LGBTQ2S+ policies/resources, social support, and LGBTQ2S+ pride.

Methods: We documented 23 LGBTQ2S+ policies/resources (e.g., name-change policy, LGBTQ2S+ center/group) by consulting officials at Ontario universities (N=20). We conducted an online survey with a convenience sample of LGBTQ2S+ students (N=3,878, M=21.9 years old, 84.3% undergraduate, 22.5% trans, 24.4% students of color, 23.9% living with a disability). Participants were recruited through outreach to student groups and unions, campus emails, posters, and social media. Participants could enter a random draw (103 e-gift-cards). Participants completed measures addressing experiential (e.g., microaggressions, victimization) and psychological (e.g., perceived safety, perceived university leadership support for LGBTQ2S+ students) campus climate, mental health (e.g., PHQ-4, Mental Health Continuum Short-Form), academic development (e.g., Academic Engagement, Intellectual Development), social support (Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support), and LGBTQ2S+ pride. All scales demonstrated acceptable or better reliability. Using MPlus, we conducted latent profile analysis to identify subgroups of students with diverse patterns across 20 indicators.

Results: Indices of fit and statistical tests (e.g., Adjusted Lo-Mendell-Rubin Likelihood Ratio) indicated that a 5-profile model demonstrated best fit and had adequate entropy (0.81). The profiles: (1) moderately positive climate and highest wellbeing (25.1% of the sample); (2) moderately positive climate and wellbeing (25.8%); (3) relatively neutral climate and poorest wellbeing (15.7%); (4) moderately negative climate and fair wellbeing (25.6%); (5) most negative climate and poor wellbeing (7.8%). Trans students, students of colour, and those with disabilities were more likely to be members of profiles 3 and 5. Higher levels of social support and pride were found among students in profiles 1 and 2. Select policies/resources were associated with particular profiles; for example wellness staff specialized in LGBTQ2S+ care and university staff person dedicated to LGBTQ2S+ programming were less likely to be available in the institutions of profile 3 participants.

Conclusions and Implications: The results show how multiple dimensions of climate, mental health, and academic development cluster for different students. The findings highlight the need to make campus environments more inclusive for trans students and LGBTQ2S+ students of color and those with disabilities and ensuring that academic and mental health services are responsive to their needs. The results also indicate the value of multi-level resilience factors in promotingLGBTQ2S+ students’ wellness. Implications for future research will be outlined.