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16-11-2020 | Empirical Research Open Access

Country-Level Structural Stigma, School-Based and Adulthood Victimization, and Life Satisfaction Among Sexual Minority Adults: A Life Course Approach

Journal of Youth and Adolescence
Arjan van der Star, John E. Pachankis, Richard Bränström
Belangrijke opmerkingen
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Country-level structural stigma, defined as prejudiced population attitudes and discriminatory legislation and policies, has been suggested to compromise the wellbeing of sexual minority adults. This study explores whether and how structural stigma might be associated with sexual minorities’ school-based and adulthood experiences of victimization and adulthood life satisfaction. Using a sample of 55,263 sexual minority individuals (22% female; 53% 18–29 years old; 85% lesbian/gay, 15% bisexual) living across 28 European countries and a country-level index of structural stigma, results show that sexual minorities, especially men, reported school bullying in both higher- and lower-stigma countries. Higher rates of school bullying were found among sexual minorities living in higher-stigma countries when open about their identity at school. Past exposure to school bullying was associated with lower adulthood life satisfaction, an association partially explained by an increased risk of adulthood victimization. These findings suggest that sexual minorities living in higher-stigma countries might benefit from not being open about their sexual identity at school, despite previously established mental health costs of identity concealment, because of the reduced risk of school bullying and adverse adulthood experiences. These results provide one of the first indications that structural stigma is associated with sexual minority adults’ wellbeing through both contemporaneous and historical experiences of victimization.

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