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Sexual Orientation, Partnership Formation, and Substance Use in the Transition to Adulthood

NCJ Number
Journal of Youth and Adolescence Volume: 41 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2012 Pages: 167-178
Erika Laine Austin; Robert Bozick
Date Published
February 2012
12 pages
This study examined the explanation that lesbian and gay youth use substances more frequently than their heterosexual peers.
Evidence suggests that lesbian and gay young adults use substances more frequently than their heterosexual peers. Based on the life course perspective, the authors argue that this difference may be due to the unavailability of marriage as a turning point in the lives of lesbian/gay young adults. The authors used data from a nationally representative sample of youth (N = 13,581, 52.4 percent female, 68.6 percent White, ages 1826) to examine sexual orientation differences in substance use and explore whether these differences vary by romantic partnership formation in young adulthood. The authors found that the formation of more serious partnerships (e.g., cohabitation, marriage) was associated with less frequent substance use among heterosexual young adults, though this pattern does not hold for lesbian and gay young adults. The authors conclude that the partnership options available to lesbians and gay men do not provide the same health-protective benefits that marriage does for heterosexuals. (Published Abstract)