Dr. Lance Keene Co-Authors Study IDing Social Supports for Black, Latinx LGBTQ Youth
NYU Silver School of Work Assistant Professor and Project Director of New York City Communities 4 Health Dr. Lance Keene and his Syracuse University Falk School of Social Work colleague Dr. Ryan Heath are featured in the May 2023 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. Dr. Keene, whose research addresses adolescent and young adult development; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and more (LGBTQIA+) populations; and importance of youth-focused interventions for the improvement of psychosocial health outcomes, continues to develop and implement multilevel research and interventions with minoritized youth in South Bronx, New York City.
Black and Latinx LGBTQ youth experience poorer psychosocial health outcomes (e.g. depression, anxiety, chronic stress) than non-LGBTQ youth. They also face additional stressors related to being minorities. However, they have been largely absent in research examining psychosocial benefits of school enrollment and community activities for LGBTQ youth. Drs. Heath and Keene addressed that gap with their study The Role of School and Community Involvement in the Psychosocial Health Outcomes of Black and Latinx LGBTQ Youth, published in the May 2023 issue of Journal of Adolescent Health.
Moreover, an editorial in the same issue by Dr. LaRon E. Nelson, et al., cited Drs. Heath and Keene’s study to argue for the development of approaches that account for the complexity of having multiple marginalized identities and identify and optimize social and emotional resources for Black and Latinx LGBTQ youth.
In their study, Drs. Heath and Keene analyzed data from 472 Black and Latinx LGBTQ adolescents and young adults who participated in one of the largest surveys of LGBTQ People of Color to determine if school enrollment and community activities had any relationship to psychosocial health outcomes. They found that participating in social activities for LGBTQ people and LGBTQ People of Color was associated with a greater sense of connectedness to the LGBTQ community. Also, participating in activities specifically for LGBTQ People of Color was associated with greater perceived health. Frequent attendance at religious services was associated with greater happiness and perceived health, while less frequent attendance was associated with lower connectedness to the LGBTQ community. School enrollment was not significantly associated with any positive or negative outcomes.
Drs. Health and Keene pointed to implications of findings for practice and policy. “Practitioners working with Black and Latinx LGBTQ adolescents and young adults can make special efforts to facilitate involvement,” they wrote. “Likewise, those in leadership positions in LGBTQ communities might actively recruit youth into their activities. Secondary and postsecondary educational institutions should incorporate evidence-based practices to improve their school climate and increase engagement among Black and Latinx LGBTQ youth. Likewise, faith institutions need to ensure that LGBTQ adolescents and young adults have accepting spaces that can keep them connected to faith communities—but not at the detriment of their connectedness to LGBTQ communities.”
In their editorial, Dr. Nelson et al. called Drs. Health and Keene’s study “an important update to the adolescent health literature on the salience of developmental assets among Black and Latinx LGBTQ adolescents.” They proposed directions for future research that similarly use an assets-based approach and also recognize that people with multiple intersecting social identities may experience one of those identities more acutely in certain contexts. “There is a growing recognition,” they wrote, “of the need for educational programs, community services, and health practices that are culturally responsive and that neither universalize or essentialize the experiences of Black youth, Latinx youth, and/or LGBTQ youth.”