Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Research has consistently indicated that sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth are at increased risk of psychological and emotional concerns relative to their cisgender heterosexual (cis-heterosexual) peers. A large body of research has sought to identify the risk factors that may contribute to this disparity; however, fewer studies have investigated the factors that may promote resiliency, thereby reducing risk. Subsequently, very little is known about the relative influence of risk and protective factors among SGM youth. Additionally, significant methodological concerns have been identified, which may affect the interpretability, generalizability, and clinical applicability of existing research. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the relative influence of risk and protective factors that have been identified in previous literature, while taking into consideration several methodological shortcomings identified in existing literature. Participants included 158 sexual and gender minority (SGM) adolescents. Results implied increased risk of depression and anxiety among gender minority youth relative to sexual minority youth. Results also supported a direct effect of gender identity on psychological functioning; however, no direct effects were observed for sexual orientation. For risk factors, only identity-specific risk factors (i.e., orientation-based victimization) were found to mediate the relationship between gender identity and psychological functioning. For protective factors, no significant moderators emerged. However, positive, promising effects for self-esteem, school connectedness, and social support were observed. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed and include assessing identity-specific risk, tailoring services to support promotive factors such as self-esteem, and increasing attention to protective factors in the research literature. Relevant terminology as outlined by the American Psychological Association is presented in Appendix A (APA 2015a; 2015b).



Committee Chair

Kelley, Mary Lou