Theses Doctoral

Three Papers Exploring Substance Use in Sexual and Gender Minority Youth

Thom, Bridgette

Disparities between the substance use rates of sexual or gender minority (SGM) youth and the rates of youth identifying as heterosexual (i.e., attracted to the opposite sex) and cisgender (i.e., gender identity corresponds to birth sex) have given rise to calls for 1) research to understand the specific risk and protective factors relating to substance use in SGM youth and 2) the development of corresponding intervention programming

In three papers, this dissertation explores predictors for substance use among SGM youth and describes methods of targeted recruitment for a prevention intervention program tailored to SGM youth. In the first paper, comparing the contributing factors of substance use between sexual minority and heterosexual youth revealed that although many predictors were associated with use in both groups, sadness, suicidal ideation, difficulty concentrating, and forced sexual encounters were the most consistent and substantial contributors to the explanation of the difference in use rates between groups. In the second paper, risk and protective factors identified from social learning theory and minority stress theory, including perceived stress, problem-solving skills, self-esteem, self-efficacy, substance refusal skills, and peer use of substance, were generally associated with past-month substance use. Peer use of substance and substance refusal skills, in particular, were consistently and robustly associated with substance use in the sample of SGM youth, and their intersection provides insight into themes to address in future intervention development. Issues of disclosure and parental permission have made recruiting representative samples of SGM youth challenging, and the third paper offers insight into an inexpensive and time-efficient means of recruiting SGM youth for participation in such research. The specificity with which Facebook ads can be targeted to hard-to-reach populations makes it a preferred tool for researchers who seek to recruit SGM youth. Taken together, the three papers of this dissertation can serve as a guide for the development and execution of substance use prevention research that is tailored to the specific needs of SGM youth.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Simon, Barbara Levy
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 30, 2019