Strong family and school connections help prevent substance use among trans youth

Risk and protective factors are strongly related to substance use among transgender youth.


According to a new study, supportive families and school connections play a vital role in preventing transgender youth from smoking cigarettes and using marijuana.

Transgender youth reported experiencing an average of 11 out of 29 different types of violence, including bullying, sexual or physical abuse, cyberbullying, sexual harassment and discrimination.

The study was conducted by scientists in the Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre (SARAVYC) in the school of nursing at the University of British Columbia.

Youth who reported high levels of two protective factors, such as a supportive family and a safe school, had much lower probabilities of substance use than those with one or no protective factors.

They also analyzed data from 323 transgender youth ages 14 to 18 who took the 2014 Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey.

Among trans youth who reported experiencing high amounts of violence, those who had no family support or caring friends had a 61 percent probability of smoking tobacco. But that probability dropped to only 20 percent among those with supportive family and friends.

In addition, youth who reported high family connectedness was about 88 percent less likely to report smoking cannabis in the past month, compared to those who reported lower family connectedness. For trans adolescents with high levels of both family and school connectedness, the probability of marijuana use dropped to only two percent.

Study’s principal investigator and executive director of SARAVYC said, “Trans youth in Canada face unacceptably high levels of violence, and this contributes to substance use. However, our research showed that even when transgender youth experience high levels of violence or discrimination, a supportive family and safe school make a difference.”

Lead author Ryan Watson, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut said, “These findings suggest that support families and schools are integral to preventing substance use among transgender youth. While we should work to reduce stigma and violence against trans young people, our findings also point to the important role of supportive adults and friends. Caring adults at home and at school are just as essential for our trans adolescents as they are for all youth.”

The research, published in Preventive Medicine Reports, was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.


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