What is the Role of Informant Discrepancies in Mental Health in Relation to Sexuality?

Research Paper Title

Mental-health disparities between heterosexual and sexual-minority adolescents: Examining the role of informant discrepancies.

Background

An emerging literature documents substantial mental-health disparities by sexual orientation amongst adolescents, with sexual-minority youth exhibiting poorer mental health than heterosexual youth.

This brief report provides the first empirical account of how the association between sexual-minority status and adolescent mental health differs depending on who assesses adolescents’ mental health (child/mother/father/teacher), and how informant discrepancies in assessments of adolescent mental health differ by adolescents’ sexual orientation.

Methods

Data come from an Australian national sample of 14-/15-year-old adolescents (Longitudinal Study of Australian Children; n = 3,000).

Adolescent mental health is measured using multiple measures from the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, and modelled using multivariable linear regression models.

Results

Mental-health disparities between sexual-minority and heterosexual adolescents emerged irrespective of who assessed the child’s mental health.

However, their magnitude varied substantially by informant, being largest when mental-health was reported by adolescents (~0.7 standard deviations) and smallest when reported by teachers (~0.2 standard deviations).

Discrepancies between mental-health scores collected from the child and other informants were largest for internalising than externalising behaviours, and in child-father than child-mother comparisons.

Conclusions

Understanding informant discrepancies and their meaning is pivotal to designing surveys that generate robust insights into the health of sexual-minority adolescents, as well as appropriate policy interventions.

Reference

Perales, F., Campbell, A. & Johnson, S. (2020) Mental-health disparities between heterosexual and sexual-minority adolescents: Examining the role of informant discrepancies. Journal of Adolescence. 79, pp.122-127. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2020.01.006. Epub 2020 Jan 15.

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