Gay Youths at Higher Risk for Criminal, School Sanctions

Study finds risks higher for being stopped by police, convicted of a crime, or expelled

MONDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Nonheterosexual youths are at disproportionate risk for criminal justice and school disciplinary sanctions that are not explained by increased engagement in criminal or transgressive behaviors, according to research published online Dec. 6 in Pediatrics.

Kathryn E.W. Himmelstein and Hannah Brückner, Ph.D., of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health from 1994 to 1995 and 2001 to 2002 and identified nonheterosexuality in three categories: same-sex attraction, same-sex romantic relationships, and lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) self-identification.

The researchers found that nonheterosexuality was a consistent predictor of a higher risk for criminal and school sanctions. For those reporting same-sex attraction, same-sex relationship, or LGB self-identification, the risk of being stopped by the police was increased (odds ratios, 1.38, 1.33, 1.53, respectively). Increased risk also was observed for juvenile arrest and conviction, adult conviction, and school expulsion. The researchers found that nonheterosexual females are at an especially high risk. They note that the disproportionate punishments experienced by nonheterosexual youths cannot be explained by greater engagement in illegal or transgressive behaviors.

"Thus, our results suggest an urgent need for all child-serving professionals to reflect on strategies to reduce the criminalization of nonheterosexual youth as they navigate adolescence in an often hostile society," the authors write.

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