Gay-Straight Alliances Vary on Dimensions of Youth Socializing and Advocacy: Factors Accounting for Individual and Setting-Level Differences

V. Paul Poteat, Jillian R. Scheer, Robert A. Marx, Jerel P. Calzo, Hirokazu Yoshikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) are school-based youth settings that could promote health. Yet, GSAs have been treated as homogenous without attention to variability in how they operate or to how youth are involved in different capacities. Using a systems perspective, we considered two primary dimensions along which GSAs function to promote health: providing socializing and advocacy opportunities. Among 448 students in 48 GSAs who attended six regional conferences in Massachusetts (59.8 % LGBQ; 69.9 % White; 70.1 % cisgender female), we found substantial variation among GSAs and youth in levels of socializing and advocacy. GSAs were more distinct from one another on advocacy than socializing. Using multilevel modeling, we identified group and individual factors accounting for this variability. In the socializing model, youth and GSAs that did more socializing activities did more advocacy. In the advocacy model, youth who were more actively engaged in the GSA as well as GSAs whose youth collectively perceived greater school hostility and reported greater social justice efficacy did more advocacy. Findings suggest potential reasons why GSAs vary in how they function in ways ranging from internal provisions of support, to visibility raising, to collective social change. The findings are further relevant for settings supporting youth from other marginalized backgrounds and that include advocacy in their mission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)422-432
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Advocacy
  • Gay-Straight Alliances
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
  • Positive youth development
  • Social justice
  • Social support
  • Youth programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Gay-Straight Alliances Vary on Dimensions of Youth Socializing and Advocacy: Factors Accounting for Individual and Setting-Level Differences'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this