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Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth and young adults: social support in their own words.


ABSTRACT: Perceived social support was explored in a qualitative study of 17 gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth and young adults from a Seattle-based sexual minority youth drop-in center. The participants were interviewed in person with an open-ended question format to describe, in their own words, perceived social support they received as sexual minorities. Support was organized into four types, those fulfilling concrete, emotional, financial, or informational needs. Content analysis revealed several themes of support tailored to the specialized needs participants had as sexual minorities: locating parental figures among other gays and lesbians, parental reactions to learning of the youths' sexual orientation, the ability to reciprocate support, and finding supporters who introduced the youth to the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community. Non-family members were found to be more supportive than family members, particularly regarding informational support. Sexual minorities were perceived as more supportive than non-sexual minorities. Understanding the process and significance of acquiring a sense of community from which youth may garner continued support may present an avenue for intervention among social service providers. Additional implications for practice and research are also discussed.