Punishing Statistics

Gay teens more likely to be punished by authorities than heterosexual peers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) teens are roughly 40 percent more likely than other adolescents to be punished by school authorities, police and courts.

A recent Yale University study found that "virtually all types of punishment -- including school expulsions, arrests, juvenile convictions, adult convictions and especially police stops -- were more frequently meted out to LGB youth," said lead author Kathryn Himmelstein.

Researchers looked at information on 15,000 middle and high school students who were followed for seven years into early adulthood.

Adolescents who self-identified as LGB were about 50 percent more likely to be stopped by police than other teens, and adolescents who reported same-sex attraction regardless of self-identification were more likely to be convicted of crimes as adults or expelled from school.

"Girls who labeled themselves as lesbian or bisexual were especially at risk for unequal treatment," said Himmelstein. "They reported experiencing twice as many police stops, arrests and convictions as other girls who had engaged in similar behavior."

Disparities in punishments are not explained by differences in misbehavior rates, according to the study. Adolescents who identified as LGB actually engaged in less violence than their peers, the study reports.

The study did not address transgender youths, but Himmelstein said anecdotal reports suggest they are similarly at risk for excessive punishment.

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Review Date: 
December 9, 2010
Last Updated:
December 10, 2010