Purpose: Sexual minority youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to consider and attempt suicide, in part due to victimization experienced within schools. While existing research suggests that rates of school victimization and suicidality among sexual minority students vary by school and community context, less is known about variation in these experiences at the state level.
Methodology: Using data from a large, representative sample of sexual minority and heterosexual youth (2017 Youth Risk Behavior States Data, n = 64,746 high school students in 22 states), multilevel models examine whether differences between sexual minority and heterosexual students in victimization and suicide risk vary by state-level policies.
Findings: Results suggest that disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual boys in bullying, suicide ideation, and suicide attempt are consistently smaller in states with high levels of overall policy support for LGBTQ equality and nondiscrimination in education laws. Sexual minority girls are more likely than heterosexual girls to be electronically bullied, particularly in states with lower levels of LGBTQ equality. Disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual girls in suicide ideation are lowest in high equality states, but state policies are not significantly associated with disparities in suicide attempt among girls.
Value: Overall, findings suggest that state-level policies supporting LGBTQ equality are associated with a reduced risk of suicide among sexual minority youth. This study speaks to the role of structural stigma in shaping exposure to minority stress and its consequences for sexual minority youth's well-being.
The authors would like to thank Dara Shifrer, Rachel Fish, Angela Frederick, Carrie Shandra, Laura Mauldin, and Shani Evans for their helpful feedback on previous versions of this chapter.
Pearson, J., Wilkinson, L. and Wooley-Snider, J.L. (2021), "State-level Policy, School Victimization, and Suicide Risk among Sexual Minority Youth", LeBlanc, A.J. and Perry, B.L. (Ed.) Sexual and Gender Minority Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 21), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 65-101. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1057-629020210000021009
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