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Date of Award

Summer 6-26-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation (On-Campus Access Only)

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Committee Chair

Laura Edwards-Leeper, PhD


Transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) youth experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, rejection, neglect, and bullying than cisgender youth. Research has shown that peer relationships are crucial to adolescents’ mental health (La Greca & Harrison, 2005). However, there is limited research regarding the impact of peer support systems on the mental health of TGNC youths. The aim of this study was to explore the possible impacts of TGNC youths’ peer relationships on several mental health variables for this vulnerable population. Ninety-two TGNC youth participants (ages 14-17), recruited through social media platforms (i.e., Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit), anonymously completed an online self-report questionnaire about peer support, anxiety, and depression factors (Interpersonal Support Evaluation, Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment-Peer Version, SCARED, and PHQ-A). Peer support was found to significantly predict mental health outcomes. Specifically alienation and belonging significantly predicted overall depression symptoms. Aspects of peer support measures were correlated with symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder and significant school avoidance. Mental health outcomes were found to be significantly predicted by peer support. Based on the findings, it is critical for TGNC youths to have positive peer relationships in which they feel connected to and supported by their peers; and free from alienation and further stigmatization. Results also suggest that TGNC youths do not currently view the majority of their peer relationships as having the level of communication, trust, and in person support that they would like. Intervention and prevention programs for TGNC youths should emphasize the creation and cultivation of positive peer relationships to reduce overall negative mental health symptoms and improve quality of life for TGNC youths.

Available for download on Wednesday, May 27, 2020