Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Bryan Cochran, Ph.D.

Commitee Members

Anisa Goforth, Ph.D., Annie Sondag, Ph.D.


Gender and Sexuality Alliances, LGBTQ youth, GSA Advisors


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Community Psychology | Multicultural Psychology


Background: Literature consistently demonstrates mental health disparities among sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth due to their unique experiences of discrimination, victimization, and rejection on the basis of their sexual and/or gender identity. Findings from the resilience literature highlight the importance of emotion regulation skills, supportive communities, and a relationship with at least one supportive, stable adult in mitigating risk and thriving despite adversity. Relationships with adults confer tremendous benefit for youth and provide opportunities for youth to learn important social and emotional skills. However, due to the rates of family and school rejection that SGM youth often experience, they have fewer opportunities to develop close relationships with adults and to cultivate these skills. One potential place that youth could access these protective factors is in the context of a school-based Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA). Findings consistently demonstrate that the presence of a GSA reduces risk for youth across a variety of domains, but little research has examined the specific activities within GSAs or the advisor-level variables that might be contributing to these observed benefits. As such, this study assessed usual practices within the GSA context explored relationships between advisors’ receipt of professional development, perceived role-specific self-efficacy and social emotional competencies.

Methods: GSA Advisor participants (N=170) completed an online survey that consisted of questions about the school at which they work, their GSA activities, and their training experiences. Additionally, participants completed measures related to their own social emotional competencies and their perceived self-efficacy in completing a variety of tasks related to their role as a GSA advisor.

Results: Results from this study provide a descriptive picture of advisor characteristics, school-level variables, and usual practices within the GSA context that contribute to understanding processes and practices within GSAs that may confer protection for SGM youth. Additionally, we found support for relationships between advisor tenure and perceived self-efficacy and between advisor receipt of role-specific professional development and perceived self-efficacy (hypothesis 1). Further, advisor social emotional competency significantly predicted perceived self-efficacy (hypothesis 2); receipt of professional development was positively associated with engagement in practice-specific social emotional learning strategies (hypothesis 3); and both receipt of professional development and social emotional competency positive predicted perceived self-efficacy, as well (hypothesis 3).

Discussion: Descriptive findings from this study contribute to our understanding of advisor and school-level variables within the context of GSAs. Additionally, they begin to elucidate the activities and foci of GSA meetings that may be partially responsible for the observed benefits of GSAs for SGM youth. Exploratory findings examining relationships between advisor tenure, training, social emotional competency, and self-efficacy point to potentially novel opportunities for providing training and technical assistance to GSA advisors, with a focus on social emotional competencies, in order to increase their perceived efficacy in working with SGM youth.



© Copyright 2021 Kelly Marie Davis