how social workers can work toward assuring the best outcomes for adolescents questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Respond by Day 5 to a colleague’s post by offering additional insight about how social workers can work toward assuring the best outcomes for adolescents questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity. Please use the Learning Resources to support your answer.

Colleague 1 Ashleigh

Today in society, it seems that more and more opinions are populating regarding sexual orientation. Some parents appear to be more open and understanding about a child’s sexual identity and others, especially in a religious view, do not. Obviously, the different reactions to this kind of information can go several different ways and impact youth on several levels. “Adolescence is a critical period during which individuals establish long-term trajectories of health, as youth are solidifying their sexual identities during this period and stigmatizing experiences during adolescence are known to disrupt the achievement of developmental tasks and contribute to negative outcomes” (Goldbach & Gibbs, 2015). “Negative parental reactions to an adolescent’s sexual minority identity can create stress in the home, sometimes resulting in youth homelessness” (Goldbach & Gibbs, 2015). With these negative reactions creates stress for the child. This stress can be brought out in several areas of their life including home, school, and with peers. “Youth who are (or are perceived to be) a sexual minority are more likely to be bullied in school, which has been correlated with high rates of absenteeism, lower educational attainment, depression, and suicidality” (Goldbach & Gibbs, 2015). It has been found that positive support from friends and family can be a positive factor.

As social workers it is always important to be a support for adolescents who are not able to fully process their thoughts and emotions. The 2015 National School Climate Survey (2016) talks about how school policies and practices that may contribute to negative experiences for LGBTQ students and make them feel as if they are not valued by their school communities (pg 2). In order to be advocates for a happy and healthy lifestyle we must support one another. Some supportive resources in schools include Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), anti-bullying/harassment policies, supportive school staff, and even curricular resources that include LGBT related topics. The more informed we are the more accepting we can be of others.

Colleague 2 – Alisha

Adolescents who are questioning their sexual identity or gender role may experience discrimination from their peers and family. According to the National School Climate Survey middle and high school students reported; Hearing biased remarks, including homophobic remarks, in school; feeling unsafe in school because of personal characteristics, such as sexual orientation, gender expression, or race/ethnicity; missing classes or days of school because of safety reasons; experiencing harassment and assault in school; and experiencing discriminatory policies and practices at school. (Kosciw et al. 2016) Sexual minority adolescents experience lack of interest, anxiety or depression by the adolescent. This can result in low self esteem and changes in behavior. Sexual minorities may also experience increased rates of obesity and lower academic achievement compared to their heterosexual peers. (Goldbach and Gibbs, 2015)

As social workers, we can advocate for adolescents to feel included by offering after school programs geared towards the LGBTQ community. Social workers may also offer trainings for other staff to be LGBTQ competent in the language they use to describe adolescents


The Impact of Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation may impact negatively on the psychological and social life of   adolescents. Studies reveal that individuals who identify as homosexuals or heterosexuals experience social victimization, psychological distress, violence and physical threats that lower their self image. As such, the resultant low self-esteem creates a sense of homophobia (Yean et al., 2013). Furthermore, association with sexual orientation that is socially unique triggers social pressure that lead to modification of physical appearance and dissatisfaction with some components of the body.  Based on this understanding, adolescents who question their sexual identity  affect their social environment. Socially, they may influence other peers to adopt their sexual orientation because of the tendency to physically manifest body dissatisfaction that trigger drives for muscularity or thinness.  The physical manifestations of their body dissatisfactions may act as a lure for other adolescents to orient with them.  In addition, such adolescents will alter their social associations by associating with individuals with similar sexual identity. In terms of behavior, adolescents will alter behavior to suit the sexual identity they would want to identify with.  It also impacts their self esteem such that they seek protection from people with the same sexual orientation (Yean et al., 2013).

As a social worker, the outcomes of such adolescents questioning their sexual orientation are improved by understanding their concerns. Notably, the teen years are full of confusion because individuals at this age would what to associate with what is fashionable. Therefore, understanding their concerns would help in devising the appropriate interventions.  For instance, some adolescents may question their sexual identify because of the information gathered from the media.  In this case, it is the duty of a social worker to give the right information so that the adolescent is informed.

Instructor question. 

Thank you for your comments.  Could you pretend I am the client and tell me what ‘right’ information you would provide to me.

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