Overall, substance use was prevalent among the LGB youths. At Time 1, 49% reported smoking cigarettes, 65% drinking alcohol, and 38% using marijuana in the past three months. At Time 2, 48% reported cigarette use, 73% alcohol use, and 48% marijuana use in the past six months. At Time 3, 58% reported cigarette use, 86% alcohol use, and 51% marijuana use in the past six months. These rates are particularly high given the illicit nature of marijuana use, the fact that the nearly all youths were too young (i.e., under age 21) to legally purchase alcohol or enter a bar, and many were too young to purchase cigarettes (i.e., under age 18).
Descriptive information on youths’ disclosure of their sexual identity to others is provided in . At Time 1, all but four youths (97%, 152/156) had disclosed to someone. The youths waited approximately 4.8 years (SD = 3.5) since first awareness of their unfolding sexual orientation as LGB before disclosing to anyone. Approximately three years (M = 2.9, SD = 2.3) elapsed since their first disclosure and Time 1. The target of the youths’ first disclosure was usually a friend (57%). By Time 1, over 90% of youths had disclosed to one or more friends. In addition, by Time 1, many youths (79%) had disclosed to at least one parent and approximately two-thirds had disclosed to at least one sibling and at least one extended family member.
Disclosure to Others by Youths.
Most individuals became aware of the youths’ sexual orientation by means of the youths’ disclosure (see ). However, over half of the youths also had at least one person who found out from someone else. Most individuals reacted positively to the youths’ disclosure, with nearly all youths being accepted by at least one person to whom they disclosed (96%). Nevertheless, 55% of the youths reported being rejected by at least one person.
Method by Which Individuals Became Aware of Youth’s LGB Sexuality and Reactions by Others to Youth’s Disclosure.
Bivariate Relations Involving Substance Use
The bivariate relations between disclosure and substance use and abuse were examined (). The total numbers of disclosures, as well as the numbers of accepting and neutral reactions to disclosure, were, at best, inconsistently related to substance use. However, the numbers of rejecting reactions to disclosure were consistently related to more substance use and abuse at Time 1 and Time 2.
Pearson Correlation Coefficients of Disclosure and Disclosure Reactions With Substance Use, and Means and Standard Deviations of Substance Use.
We examined the relations between potential confounders of the relations between rejecting disclosure reactions and substance use. The findings indicated the need to control for sex, age, and social desirability. In addition, we controlled for emotional distress as a potential rival explanation for the observed link between rejection and substance use. Controls for family socioeconomic status, sexual identity as lesbian/gay vs. bisexual, and race/ethnicity were unnecessary, given only one significant finding emerged for each of these potential covariates, essentially what would be expected by chance alone (1.05 = .05 × 21 tests consisting of substance use at three times, and accepting, neutral, and rejecting disclosure reactions).
Female youths as compared with male youths significantly (p <.05) reported more rejecting reactions to disclosure (r = .17), and substance abuse symptoms at Time 1 (r = .18), and more frequent use of alcohol at Time 2 (r = .22). Younger as compared with older youths smoked more cigarettes at Time 2 (r = −.24) and Time 3 (r = −.23) and used more marijuana at Time 3 (r = −.22).
Social desirability was related significantly to several factors. Youths who provided more socially desirable responses reported more accepting reactions to disclosure (r = .16). Youths providing more socially desirable responses also reported at Time 1 lower quantity of marijuana use (r = −.16), and fewer substance abuse symptoms (r = −.21). In addition, they reported less frequent marijuana use at Time 2 (r = −.17) and symptoms of substance abuse (r = −.23) at Time 3.
Emotional distress indicators of anxiety, depression, and conduct problems were related to disclosure reactions and to cotemporaneous substance use. Here we present the findings for Time 1 only, given that findings for Time 2 and Time 3 were comparable. Anxious symptomatology at Time 1 was significantly related to more rejecting reactions (r = .16), as well as to more symptoms of substance abuse at Time 1 (r = .27). Depressive symptomatology at Time 1 was significantly related to fewer accepting reactions (r = −.19) and greater quantity of marijuana use at Time 1 (r = .18). Conduct problems at Time 1 were significantly related to various Time 1 substance use indicators: greater quantity of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use (r = .39, .21, and .22, respectively), greater frequency of alcohol and marijuana use (r = .18 and .20, respectively), and more substance abuse symptoms (r = .20).
Multivariate Relations Involving Disclosure Reactions and Substance Use
Multiple linear regression was used to control for sex, age, and social desirability when examining the relations between rejecting reactions and substance use. Regression equations were also computed that controlled for the aforementioned covariates and emotional distress indicators of anxiety, depression, and conduct problems that were cotemporaneous with substance use. Both sets of findings were comparable (see ). Relative to the unadjusted (i.e., bivariate) correlations (), being rejected by those to whom the youths disclosed continued to be related to more substance use at Time 1 and Time 2. In addition, rejection was now related to more symptoms of substance abuse at Time 3.
Multiple Regression of Substance Use on Number of Rejections to Disclosure.
Moderating Role of Accepting Reactions
Although accepting relations were not found to have a direct effect on substance use and abuse, as suggested earlier, they may moderate or buffer the negative role of rejecting reactions. To examine this hypothesis, we added the interaction term of accepting by rejecting reactions to the linear regression analyses described above. Four significant interaction terms were identified. All involved alcohol use, specifically frequency of alcohol use at Time 1 (β = −.23, ΔR2 = .05, F (1, 149) = 8.35, p <.005), quantity of alcohol at Time 1 (β = −.22, ΔR2 = .04, F (1, 149) = 7.35, p <.01), frequency of alcohol at Time 2 (β = −.16, ΔR2 = .02, F (1, 136) = 3.76, p <.06), and quantity of alcohol at Time 3 (β = −.20, ΔR2 = .04, F (1, 119) = 4.89, p <.05). These moderating findings were nearly identical across models that did or did not control for emotional distress.
depicts the regression slopes for the four moderating relations. In all cases, accepting reactions buffered the relation between rejecting reaction and alcohol use, in which accepting reactions protected youths from the negative role of rejecting reactions on alcohol use. Specifically, among youths with fewer (1 SD below the mean) accepting reactions, alcohol frequency and quantity were found to increase as the number of rejecting reactions increased. However, for youths with a high number of accepting reactions (1 SD above the mean), the associations of rejecting reactions with alcohol use were largely attenuated, such that youths with more accepting reactions reported a consistently low/moderate level of alcohol use, regardless of the number of rejecting reactions experienced.
Significant interactions between accepting and rejecting reactions to disclosure and their association with alcohol use at Times 1, 2, and 3.