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18-01-2016 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 7/2016

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 7/2016

Promoting Youth Agency Through Dimensions of Gay–Straight Alliance Involvement and Conditions that Maximize Associations

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 7/2016
V. Paul Poteat, Jerel P. Calzo, Hirokazu Yoshikawa


Gay–Straight Alliances (GSAs) may promote wellbeing for sexual minority youth (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning youth) and heterosexual youth. We considered this potential benefit of GSAs in the current study by examining whether three GSA functions—support/socializing, information/resource provision, and advocacy—contributed to sense of agency among GSA members while controlling for two major covariates, family support and the broader school LGBT climate. The sample included 295 youth in 33 Massachusetts GSAs (69 % LGBQ, 68 % cisgender female, 68 % white; M age = 16.06 years). Based on multilevel models, as hypothesized, youth who received more support/socializing, information/resources, and did more advocacy in their GSA reported greater agency. Support/socializing and advocacy distinctly contributed to agency even while accounting for the contribution of family support and positive LGBT school climate. Further, advocacy was associated with agency for sexual minority youth but not heterosexual youth. Greater organizational structure enhanced the association between support/socializing and agency; it also enhanced the association between advocacy and agency for sexual minority youth. These findings begin to provide empirical support for specific functions of GSAs that could promote wellbeing and suggest conditions under which their effects may be enhanced.

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