Predicting homophobic behavior among heterosexual youth: domain general and sexual orientation-specific factors at the individual and contextual level

J Youth Adolesc. 2013 Mar;42(3):351-62. doi: 10.1007/s10964-012-9813-4. Epub 2012 Sep 7.


As a form of bias-based harassment, homophobic behavior remains prominent in schools. Yet, little attention has been given to factors that underlie it, aside from bullying and sexual prejudice. Thus, we examined multiple domain general (empathy, perspective-taking, classroom respect norms) and sexual orientation-specific factors (sexual orientation identity importance, number of sexual minority friends, parents' sexual minority attitudes, media messages). We documented support for a model in which these sets of factors converged to predict homophobic behavior, mediated through bullying and prejudice, among 581 students in grades 9-12 (55 % female). The structural equation model indicated that, with the exception of media messages, these additional factors predicted levels of prejudice and bullying, which in turn predicted the likelihood of students to engage in homophobic behavior. These findings highlight the importance of addressing multiple interrelated factors in efforts to reduce bullying, prejudice, and discrimination among youth.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Attitude
  • Bullying / psychology*
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Friends
  • Heterosexuality / psychology*
  • Homophobia / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media
  • Massachusetts
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parents / psychology
  • Peer Group
  • Self Report
  • Social Identification