Primary Sources: Risk Behaviors Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Youth

Photograph of a young woman looking down.

Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors among Students in Grades 9–12: Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, Selected Sites, United States, 2001–2009, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, June 2011.

What it’s about: This report summarizes results from Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted with public school students in grades 9-12 in seven states and six large, urban school districts between 2001 and 2009. The authors examine health risk behaviors among youth who identify themselves as gay or lesbian, bisexual, or unsure of their sexual identity. Health risk behaviors include unsafe sexual behavior, suicidal behavior, and experiences with dating violence, substance use, bullying, and depression.

Why read it: This report is based on results from a large, national survey—the only one of its kind—that includes information about teens’ sexual identity and health risk behaviors. The authors analyze the results looking at how sexual orientation, race and ethnicity helped predict different risky behaviors.

Biggest takeaways for youth workers: According to the survey, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning students were more likely than heterosexual students to engage in sexual risk behaviors, substance use, and behaviors related to attempted suicide. Youth workers can help by screening for risky behaviors, especially when talking to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning youth and letting them know about available resources. Youth workers can also help by treating these youth respectfully, helping to ensure their safety, and facilitating access to education, health care, and mental health services.

Additional Reference: Read the Children’s Bureau’s Toolkit for Supporting LGBTQ Youth in Care, or the LGBTQI2-S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, questioning, intersex, two-spirited) section of SAMHSA’s Homelessness Resource Center for resources on working with young people of all sexual orientations.

Also, read previous issues of NCFY's Exchange:

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)


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