Trans youth: how family and school support helps to prevent substance use

An image to illustrate trans youth
© iStock/ dragana991

A new national study in Canada showed that strong family and school support for trans youth can help to prevent substance use.

According to the study led by researchers in the Stigma and Resilience Among Vulnerable Youth Centre (SARAVYC) in the school of nursing at the University of British Columbia (UBC), these connections can help to prevent trans youth from smoking cigarettes and using marijuana. The study found that this is the case even in those who are targets of violence.

How school and family connections help

The study assessed 323 transgender youth ages 14 to 18 who took the 2014 Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey.

Of the trans youth who reported being targeted with high amounts of violence:

  • Those who had no family support or caring friends had a 61 percent probability of smoking tobacco; and
  • That probability dropped to only 20 per cent among those with supportive family and friends.

The study’s principal investigator and UBC nursing professor Elizabeth Saewyc, 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.”

The lead author Ryan Watson, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut, added: “These findings suggest that supportive families and schools are integral to preventing substance use among transgender youth.”

Supporting trans youth and ending stigma

Watson concluded: “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 study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuseand is published in Preventive Medicine Reports.

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