According to Reuters Health, Yale researchers found that when all teens committed the same amount of bad behavior, teens who self-identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) were also more likely to be arrested and convicted of a crime as juveniles.
Specifically, LGB adolescents are between 30 and 50 percent more likely to be stopped by the police. Also, 40 percent of LGB teens are more likely to be convicted of a crime as adults and more likely to be expelled from school.
Lesbian and bisexual girls were especially at risk for unequal treatment. They reported experiencing twice as many police stops, arrests and convictions as other girls who had engaged in similar behavior.
Published in the January 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics, the study is the first to document excessive punishment of LGB youth nationwide.
Lead author Kathryn Himmelstein, who initiated the study while she was a Yale undergraduate, said "We found that virtually all types of punishment including school expulsions, arrests, juvenile convictions, adult convictions and especially police stops were more frequently meted out to LGB youth.ʺ
Researchers Himmelstein and her co-author Dr. Hannah Brueckner of Yale University reviewed data collected from more than 15,000 teens in grades 7 through 12 during the 1994-1995 school year. Interviews were conducted in teens' homes, during which they answered sensitive questions about sexuality and bad behavior anonymously, by entering their responses into a computer. Seven years later, participants were re-contacted and asked about their behaviors and punishments as adults.
Most participants said they'd engaged in some type of bad behavior.
• Three-quarters admitted to minor transgressions, such as running away, graffiti or shoplifting.
• Thirty percent said they'd committed more serious acts, such as selling drugs or stealing.
• More than 40 percent admitted to violent behavior, such as fighting or hurting someone.
The study showed that disparities in punishment could not be explained by differences in the rates of misbehavior.