LGBTQ+ Youth and Pets Project

dog wearing a rainbow-colored bandana

Principal investigator: Shelby E. McDonald, Ph.D.

LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other sexual and gender minority identities) youth and emerging adults are a diverse group of young people facing stigma, victimization and discrimination at levels that impact their well-being. There is growing evidence that social support is a crucial protective factor that attenuates the impact of LGBTQ-specific stressors (i.e., victimization, discrimination) on mental health; however, to date, studies examining social support among LGBTQ+ youth and emerging adults have been limited to exploring the impact of relationships with other humans. We are collecting data from youth ages 12-21 years to understand whether and how pet ownership relates to well-being in LGBTQ+ young people (ages 12-21 years), and whether human-animal interaction (HAI) operates as a protective factor in this population.

This study involves collaboration with four organizations serving LGBTQ+ youth in Virginia: Side by Side, Nationz Foundation, Planned Parenthood Virginia League and Health Brigade.