Date of Award
Campus Access Thesis
Master of Arts (MA)
Jean E. Rhodes
Sexual minority youth are at higher risk than heterosexual youth for depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Sexual minority youth also experience higher levels of peer victimization, family rejection, and discrimination than heterosexual youth, and these experiences of excess stress are associated with mental health symptoms among sexual minority youth. There is a need for studies that examine ways to protect against the impact of excess stress on mental health symptoms among sexual minority youth. One potentially effective intervention target may be to increase protective factors related to social support, such as natural mentoring. Natural mentoring—naturally occurring bonds between youth and non-parental adults—is one of the most common ways youth receive support and has proven beneficial for mental health symptoms in a variety of diverse populations of youth. However, natural mentoring has been largely unexplored in the lives of sexual minority youth. In the current study, I examine the association between excess stress and symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation among sexual minority youth, the presence and nature of natural mentoring relationships among sexual minority youth, and I explore whether natural mentoring may be protective against mental health symptoms among sexual minority youth. Data were drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which includes a nationally representative sample of adolescents and young adults with five waves of data collected over the span of 24 years (N= 9,623). Findings show that sexual minority youth report experiencing higher levels of physical victimization, school stress, parental rejection, and general rejection than heterosexual youth. Excess stress was positively associated with suicidality and symptoms of depression among sexual minority youth. Sexual minority youth were not more or less likely to be mentored than heterosexual youth and mentoring did not moderate the association between excess stress and symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation among sexual minority youth. Implications for future research are discussed.
Gipson, Cherrelle, "Excess Stress and Natural Mentors in the Lives of Sexual Minority Youth" (2021). Graduate Masters Theses. 687.