Homophobic teasing, psychological outcomes, and sexual orientation among high school students: What influence do parents and schools have?

Dorothy L. Espelage*, Steven R. Aragon, Michelle Birkett, Brian W. Koenig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

275 Scopus citations


Homophobic teasing is often long-term, systematic, and perpetrated by groups of students (Rivers, 2001); it places targets at risk for greater suicidal ideation, depression, and isolation (Elliot & Kilpatrick, 1994). This study fills a gap in the literature by examining buffering influences of positive parental relations and positive school climate on mental health outcomes for high school students who are questioning their sexual orientation. Participants were 13,921 high school students from a Midwestern U.S. public school district. Students completed a survey consisting of a wide range of questions related to their school experiences (bullying, homophobia, school climate), parental support, mood, and drug-alcohol use. Students were categorized into three groups: (a) youth who identified as heterosexual, (b) youth who questioned their sexual orientation, and (c) youth who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB). As hypothesized, sexual minority youth were more likely to report high levels of depression-suicide feelings and alcohol-marijuana use; students who were questioning their sexual orientation reported more teasing, greater drug use, and more feelings of depression and suicide than either heterosexual or LGB students. Sexually questioning students who experienced homophobic teasing were also more likely than LGB students to use drugs-alcohol and rate their school climate as negative. Finally, positive school climate and parental support protected LGB and questioning students against depression and drug use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-216
Number of pages15
JournalSchool Psychology Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 25 2008


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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