As studies have shown, homonegative attitudes are an important factor in explaining homonegative behavior and research has established a series of factors associated with homonegative attitudes. However, most of the studies included only a small number of variables. Comprehensive explanatory models allow for a more inclusive perspective. Therefore, we examined the predictors of negative cognitive attitudes towards gay men in adolescents by testing a multifactorial model including individual and contextual factors.
This model posits that homonegative attitudes are determined by expectations of parents, expectations of best friends, expectations of class teacher, religiosity, social dominance orientation, importance of one's own sexual orientation, acceptance of traditional gender roles, attitudes of traditional masculinity, contact with gay men and beliefs about the cause of homosexuality (born that way, choice, education by parents).
To capture the negative cognitive attitudes toward gay men, we used a scale comprising five items, that had proved to be adequate in a German-speaking context and showed good psychometric characteristics (e.g. gay couples should be allowed to adopt children). The response options ranged on a seven-point-Likert scale from 0="strongly agree" to 6= "strongly disagree." The internal consistency of this scale was very good (Cronbach’s α=0.92).
The sample included 2210 heterosexual adolescents, aged 12–18, 1149 in the 8th and 1061 in the 9th year, 45.9% female, 54.1% male, and 50.1% with an immigration background.
The mean score of the "negative cognitive attitudes toward gay men" scale was 1.65 (SD=1.60). Male adolescents reached significantly higher scores (M=2.07, SD=1.67) than female adolescents (M=1.14, SD=1.34): t(2208)=-14.21, p<0.001.
Analyses showed that respondents’ negative cognitive attitudes toward gay men were predicted directly by expectations of parents (β=–0.30), expectations of best friends (β=–0.19), religiosity (β=0.16), social dominance orientation (β=0.12), importance of one's own sexual orientation (β=0.12), and attitudes of traditional masculinity (β=0.21). The effects of gender and migration background on homonegative attitudes were fully meditated by these variables. Expectations of class teacher, acceptance of traditional gender roles, contact with gay men, beliefs about the cause of homosexuality and the control variables age, urbanity, and formal school level had no effect (SRMR=0.0183, RMSEA=0.03 und TLI=0.98, adj.R2=0.64).
The tested model explained 64% of the variance in negative cognitive attitudes towards gay men in adolescents in Switzerland.
The findings provide leverage points for developing intervention and prevention strategies for adolescents, that can be implemented in social work settings such as school social work and open youth work.