In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Young and Adolescent Lesbians

  • Introduction
  • Organizations
  • Sexual Identity Development and Coming Out
  • Socialization and Dating
  • Risk Factors Related to Psychosocial and Emotional Well-Being
  • Substance Use
  • Family Acceptance and Environment
  • Parent Needs when Youth Come Out
  • Children of Lesbian Mothers
  • Child Welfare
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Stigma, Resilience, and Coping
  • School Environment
  • Social Work Practice
  • Health-Related Practice

Social Work Young and Adolescent Lesbians
Shelley L. Craig
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 January 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0137


Lesbian is frequently used to describe women who are romantically and sexually attracted to other women. Although the term represents a diversity of experiences and is not always embraced by young women with same-sex attractions, it can be used to describe a cultural identity. Lesbian-identified individuals often share common challenges emanating from their social environments, such as discrimination and stigma, and, as women, have physical and mental health concerns very different from those men. Because the lesbian identity emerged as a social construct during the 20th century, this article identifies relevant works and topics in adolescence and early adulthood from 1987 to the early 21st century, in a variety of settings, including home and school environments, and regarding a range of subjects, such as identity development and coming out, health and well-being, and dating and socialization. Despite barriers, such as recruitment and measurement, the quantity of research involving lesbians is gradually increasing, yet studies involving youth have generally merged young and adolescent lesbians with gay males and bisexuals to reach adequate sample size. Thus, throughout this article, information about young lesbians must be considered within the context of works that also discuss other sexual minority populations. The article offers an overview of diverse young and adolescent lesbians in key areas critical to research and practice with this population.


A growing number of online resources exist to enable young and adolescent lesbians to access information and resources, including the Trevor Project, the It Gets Better Project, Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender National Youth Talkline, Heartstrong, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE).

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