LGBT Youth Online and In Person: Identity Development, Social Support, and Extracurricular and Civic Participation in a Positive Youth Development Framework
Palmer, Neal Andrew
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth are historically an under-studied subpopulation of youth. Over the past decade however, the subpopulation has garnered increased attention from scholars of education and youth development, primarily with regard to how experiences of stigma and victimization negatively influence school and family life. During this same time period, the transformative paradigm of positive youth development (PYD), which focuses on the positive or adaptive factors that support a successful transition from adolescence to adulthood (Durlak, 1998), has become increasingly prominent. Despite the potential value of this approach in offering a fuller picture of youth development inclusive of risk as well as positive supports, its application to LGBT youth thus far remains limited. A parallel growth in literature has attended to how new, Internet-based technologies affect adolescent development models, and how they may be especially useful for some socially marginalized groups. These new media, when viewed through a PYD framework, have the potential to re-energize civic participation and help create a more just society, particularly if they support development and assist in overcoming experiences of marginalization. This dissertation applies the PYD model to LGBT youth and examines a) the factors that influence access to PYD resources; b) how LGBT-related experiences of marginalization influence access to and use of positive resources and well-being; and c) whether LGBT-specific and Internet-based additions to the PYD framework facilitate well-being. Results show that online and LGBT-specific spaces and resources—including resources related to LGBT identity development, social support, and participation in extracurricular and civic activities—can contribute to well-being and thus, expand existing understandings of PYD for LGBT youth.