The increased punishment can’t be explained by more rule-breaking or law-breaking behavior, according to Yale researchers Kathryn Himmelstein and Hanna Bruckner.
“Our findings indicate that non-heterosexual adolescents suffer disproportionate punishments by schools and the criminal-justice system, which implicates not only schools, police, and courts but also other youth-serving health and welfare systems that often fail to meet the needs of non-heterosexual adolescents.
“Thus, our results suggest an urgent need for all child serving professionals to reflect on strategies to reduce the criminalization of non-heterosexual youth as they navigate adolescence in an often hostile society.”
The researchers said the punishments of gay youth did not correlate with their level of misbehavior; in fact, the study indicates that these youths were engaged in less violence than other youths.
The study, which will be published in the January 2011 issue of Pediatrics, was based on findings from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which surveyed about 15,000 middle and high school students.
The study followed them for seven years into early adulthood and collected facts about their sexuality and behavior. The youths were also surveyed about school expulsions and contact with the criminal justice system.
Himmelstein noted that while the study did not include transgender youths, anecdotal evidence indicates that they are similarly singled out by authorities.