School Psychology Forum

LGB Youth's Perceptions of Social Support: Implications for School Psychologists

Sarah Kiperman, Kris Varjas, Joel Meyers, & Ali Howard

pp. 75-90

School Psychologists as Allies and Advocates for the LGBTQ Community

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ABSTRACT: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth may endure adverse experiences related to their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. While social supports are commonly described as protective factors, few researchers have investigated this phenomenon for LGBT youth. The current study used thematic coding to analyze semistructured interviews with LGB adolescents to learn how participants view people as socially supportive and nonsupportive. Thematic analysis revealed four social nonsupport components (informational, tangible/ instrumental, affirmation, and emotional support) and three social nonsupport components (unmet expectations, negative perceptions, and negative interactions). These findings add to the general literature on social support as well as illustrating potentially important forms of social nonsupport for LGBT youth who experience bullying. The results from this study suggest a need to develop an integrated model of social support and nonsupport to have a better understanding of youth's experiences and to allow for service providers to develop effective prevention and intervention efforts. One finding with important implications for practitioners is that affirmation reflected students' perceptions that support was provided via various forms of positive feedback. School psychologists could provide support through advocacy by speaking up for LGBT students who are being bullied by others and supporting LGBT students in obtaining various leadership roles in the school. These preventive strategies can be used to reduce bullying toward LGBT youth and to promote the positive development and achievements of LGBT youth within the school setting.