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Psychology Professors Publish Study on Adolescent Distress

Tracy Cohn and Valerie Leake

Tracy Cohn and Valerie Leake

Radford University faculty members Tracy Cohn and Valerie Leake have published results from a study they conducted to examine and compare distress among homosexual and heterosexual adolescents in rural and urban areas.

"Some adolescents have multiple factors that, when combined within their environments, impact their overall wellbeing" wrote Cohn and Leake, both  assistant professors in RU's Department of Psychology, in the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, which published their research results. "Such is the case for sexual minority adolescents who live in rural settings."

Cohn said the study also examines the impact of levels of school belonging, family belonging and the presence of a mentoring relationship on affective distress for rural sexual minority adolescents.

"From working with clients in rural areas, my sense has been that same-sex-attracted adolescents have higher rates of depression and anxiety than those in urban areas," Cohn said. "This makes sense. If you're gay or attracted to the same sex and there isn't anyone 'like you' in your rural community, you feel bad. This study confirms those beliefs."

Cohn went on to say that rural adolescents who "like people of the same sex have higher levels of depression, anxiety and negative emotional experiences than rural heterosexuals." The study also addressed the importance of building networks of support for sexual minorities in rural areas.

"The take-home message is this," Cohn said. "This study, along with a long line of other studies, found that encouraging families to love without rules, promoting schools to teach and instill kindness, civility and generosity result in safe spaces for people—not just same-sex-attracted people, but people. People."

A group of 469 rural sexual minority adolescents were surveyed for the study, and a group of 423 rural nonsexual minority adolescents were randomly selected for comparison purposes.

The Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health is the official journal of the Association of Gay & Lesbian Psychiatrists, which states its mission as fostering a fuller understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender mental health issues.

Dec 11, 2012
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7761
caosborne@radford.edu