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Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2017;87(6):671-679. doi: 10.1037/ort0000209. Epub 2016 Sep 5.

Associations of outside- and within-school adult support on suicidality: Moderating effects of sexual orientation.

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Health and Human Development Division, Education Development Center.


This study examined sexual-orientation differences in reports of outside- and within-school adult support, and whether sexual orientation moderates the associations between adult support and suicidality (i.e., thoughts, plans, and attempts). At 26 high schools across MetroWest Boston, 22,834 students completed surveys assessing: sexual orientation (heterosexual, gay/lesbian, bisexual, or questioning); presence of outside- and within-school adult support; and past-year suicidality. Multivariable regression analyses with General Estimating Equations (adjusting for gender, grade, and race/ethnicity) examined sexual-orientation subgroup differences in adult support, and how sexual orientation and adult support were associated with suicidality. Interaction terms tested whether relationships between adult support and suicidality were moderated by sexual orientation. Gay/lesbian, bisexual, and questioning youth were each less likely than heterosexuals to report having outside-school adult support (risk ratios range: 0.85-0.89). Each group also had greater odds than heterosexuals for suicidal thoughts (odds ratios [ORs] range: 1.86-5.33), plans (ORs range: 2.15-5.22), and attempts (ORs range: 1.98-7.90). Averaged across sexual-orientation subgroups, outside-school support was more protective against suicidality (ORs range: 0.34-0.35) than within-school support (ORs range: 0.78-0.82). However, sexual orientation moderated the protective effects of outside-school adult support, with support being less protective for bisexual and questioning youth than for heterosexuals. Adult support, and particularly outside-school adult support, is associated with lower suicidality. However, fewer gay/lesbian, bisexual, and questioning youth can rely on outside-school support and, even if present, it may be less protective against suicidality. Interventions are needed to help adults support gay/lesbian, bisexual, and questioning youth and reduce suicidality disparities. (PsycINFO Database Record.

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