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Saying Goodbye as Our Journey Changes

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~ By Colette

These past few weeks, the staff and I at The Prevention Researcher have had the most difficult task of letting our readers, authors, colleagues, subscribers, and partners in prevention know that The Prevention Researcher will cease to be published after our September 2013 issue.

In my role as associate editor, I have worked with many phenomenal authors and researchers. And, over the past 20 years I have also had the pleasure of watching research grow and build over time. In my opinion, The Prevention Researcher was often on the forefront of many important topics, and even with more commonplace topics we kept our focus on providing research-based direction for those people who work with youth in every-day environments. With our prevention approach, we always strove to focus on the positive — envisioning a world where all youth were provided with the resources and support they needed to succeed.

Of course in that time, the publishing world has changed drastically. Since our first issue in 1994, publishing has transformed from a basically text-based print medium, to text with pictures, to digital productions complete with video and audio elements. We have also witnessed researchers’ interests shift from sharing their findings strictly in high-impact research journals to collaborating on articles which have a much wider appeal. Being a part of these changes has been an amazing ride, and I hope that our work at The Prevention Researcher informed youth-serving professionals to make positive impacts on the lives of youth themselves.

While The Prevention Researcher will soon be gone, the staff here remains largely intact. With our parent organization, the Foundation for Global Sport Development, we will fine tune our efforts to focus specifically on youth in sports. Within the next few months we will be releasing a new website which will be a paramount resource on all things related to youth and the culture of sport. I hope that you will continue with us on this new journey.

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Promoting Healthy Relationships Among LGBT Youth

Dating Violence, LGBT Youth, Luca Maurer - Posted on February 25, 2013
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~ By Luca Maurer

The topic of promoting healthy relationships among LGBT youth is one that is still not addressed very often. Little research has been done regarding LGBT adolescent romantic relationships. We do know that some developmental, societal, and environmental factors impact same-sex and different-sex adolescent couples in similar ways, while others can impact them in very different ways.

Unique Vulnerabilities
An important aspect of supporting LGBT young people and their relationships, is understanding their unique vulnerability to challenging issues and situations, especially during adolescence (Garofalo, Wolf et al., 1998). This vulnerability is not because of their LGBT identity, but because of societal stigma regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and its effects (Hart & Heimberg, 2001). Research has identified a number of areas in which LGBT youth experience disparities including: risk-taking behavior; estrangement (from family and friends); depression; stress; violence; suicide; alcohol, tobacco, and substance use; and increased risk of teen pregnancy involvement.

These risks may also significantly impact romantic relationships among LGBT youth in numerous ways. For example, ways that unplanned teen pregnancy involvement intersects with societal stigma, adolescent “camouflaging” behavior, and LGBT adolescent relationships are particularly complicated.

Much of the research about LGBT youth has focused on deficits, with only a few researchers also pursuing inquiry into ways LGBT youth are resilient. Though many LGBT adolescents not only survive but thrive, research is just beginning to turn toward topics in resilience and ways having a marginalized orientation or identity may contribute to resilience-building and other positive skills and attributes.

Promoting Healthy Relationships
Given this backdrop, how can professionals promote healthy relationships among LGBT youth? What resources exist, and what does the research tell us? In what ways are relationships similar among LGBT youth and their non-LGBT peers, and in what ways do they differ?

Developing awareness of sexuality and learning about and cultivating romantic relationships, are key tasks of adolescence, as well as arenas for young people to develop interpersonal skills and more fully explore themselves in relation to others and the world. These relationships provide opportunities for young people to consider themes of identity, explore sexuality and intimacy, and form social support networks (Coontz, 2006).

Existing research with different-sex adolescent romantic relationships indicates that these relationships provide opportunities not only for sexual satisfaction, but also important opportunities for recreation, leisure, and social support (Furman & Shaffer, 2003). Yet little research has included same-sex romantic relationships. One of the few to compare and contrast same-sex and different-sex adolescent relationships found the relationships were quite similar on a variety of dimensions. Differences that were found were more related to the sex of the partners, rather than to their sexual orientation (Darling & Clarke, 2009).

Limited Number of Potential Partners
Several other important themes can significantly impact healthy relationships among LGBT youth. First, simply because there are fewer LGBT youth than non-LGBT youth, the number of potential partners for LGBT youth is limited. Unlike their peers, the pool of available romantic partners can be rather small. And this can be especially magnified in smaller towns, schools or colleges, and other settings.

Research has found that, in part because of this smaller number of potential romantic partners, LGBT young people may be more likely to enter into a relationship, and less likely to leave one (Darling & Clarke, 2009). This study also found LGBT adolescents were more motivated to maintain their romantic relationships, more likely to pay attention to the needs of their partners, to have more empathy for their partners, and be more accurate in their assessments of their partners’ emotions. The study suggested that this element – that of being aware of having fewer choices of potential partners due to sexual orientation – may assist or encourage LGBT adolescents in developing conflict negotiation skills.

Unsafe Environments
Another aspect that can be different for LGBT adolescents than their non-LGBT peers has to do with simple environmental reality factors. In many areas of the country, it still may not be safe (physically or emotionally) for LGBT couples (of any age) to show affection in many of the settings their non-LGBT peers take for granted. This can be an obvious barrier, as it may mean many of the settings and activities in which adolescent relationships and dating take place may not feel safe for LGBT adolescents.

Lack of Role Models
These unsafe settings can also magnify the effect of seeing few role models of healthy adult LGBT relationships, either in one’s own community or in the larger society. “Impact,” the LGBT Health and Development Program at Northwestern University, has created a resource on the specific theme of finding role models for healthy LGBT relationships.

Lack of Accurate Information about Sexuality
An additional issue facing LGBT adolescents is the lack of access to accurate information about sexuality that is inclusive of LGBT topics and themes. Some sex education curricula do not include any information about LGBT youth; and in some school districts and local jurisdictions it can even be illegal for a teacher to mention supportive resources for LGBT youth. Fortunately, the internet can make things a bit easier. Out for Health’s Queer Tips, offers “the best queer sex ed class you were never offered,” with posts on wide-ranging topics including healthy relationships, communication, health, history, and more. And Scarleteen, “sex ed for the real world” offers inclusive information for youth and young adults across a host of sexuality themes. These, and other internet resources, can help address the knowledge gaps for LGBT adolescents, and those who care about them.

Another challenge, particularly for adolescents who identify as transgender and for their partners, can be the lack of basic sexuality education that describes anatomy and physiology without the usual “boys parts/girls parts” dichotomy. Scarleteen’s article With Pleasure: A View of Whole Sexual Anatomy for Every Body has done an excellent and comprehensive job of approaching this from a more inclusive approach. The information is useful and applicable to everyone, and is written in an inviting manner specifically for adolescents.

There is still much to be learned about the particular stresses and successes of LGBT adolescent relationships. Additional research and resources are key to fostering healthy relationships for LGBT young people.

Coontz, S. (2006). Romance and sex in adolescence and emerging adulthood. In A.C. Crouter & A. Booth (Eds.), Romance and Sex in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: Risks and Opportunities (pp. 87–91). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Darling, N., & Clarke, S.A. (2009). Seeing the partner: A video recall study of emotional behavior in same- and mixed-sex late adolescent romantic couples. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 1015–1026.

Furman, W., & Shaffer, L. (2003). The role of romantic relationships in adolescent development. In P. Florsheim (Ed.), Adolescent Romantic Relations and Sexual Behavior: Theory, Research, and Practical Implications (pp. 3–22). Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Garofalo, R., Wolf, R.C., Kessel, S., Palfrey, J., & DuRant, R.H. (1998). The association between health risk behaviors and sexual orientation among a school-based sample of adolescents. Pediatrics, 101(5), 895-902.

Hart, T.A., & Heimberg, R.G. (2001). Presenting problems among treatment-seeking gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 57, 615-627.

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Free Article: Help-seeking and Help-giving for Teen Dating Violence

Colette Kimball, Dating Violence - Posted on February 21, 2013
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~ By Colette

How do teens typically get help for dating violence, and how can adults and other teens best respond to dating violence survivors?

What roles do gender and culture play in youths’ decisions about seeking help?

How do parents’ and other adults’ gender and culture influence their responses to youth seeking help?

These are the questions which begin the article “Help-seeking and Help-giving for Teen Dating Violence” by Arlene Weisz and Beverly Black. And, they are the questions the article seeks to answer.

Based on numerous research projects conducted by the authors, this article explores how teens seek help for dating violence (hint, it is not from parents or other concerned adults) and how teens provide assistance to their friends in violent dating relationships. It concludes with helpful strategies for adults who work with youth.

As part of relationship wellness month, we are making this article available for free download. For a limited time, you can access it from here.

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