Trans youth in Canada face high levels of violence, and this can contribute to substance use. However, research at SARAVYC showed that even when transgender youth experience high levels of violence or discrimination, a supportive family and safe school can make a difference.
Specifically, strong family and school connections are helping prevent transgender youth from smoking cigarettes and using marijuana, even among those targeted by violence.
The study analyzed data from 323 transgender youth ages 14 to 18 who took the 2014 Canadian Trans Youth Health Survey.
Among trans youth who reported experiencing high amounts of violence, those who had no family support or caring friends had a 61 per cent probability of smoking tobacco. But that probability dropped to only 20 per cent among those with supportive family and friends.
In addition, youth who reported high family connectedness were about 88 per cent less likely to report smoking cannabis in the past month, compared to those who reported lower family connectedness. For trans adolescents with high levels of both family and school connectedness, the probability of marijuana use dropped to only two per cent.
Transgender youth reported experiencing an average of 11 out of 29 different types of violence, including bullying, sexual or physical abuse, cyberbullying, sexual harassment and discrimination.
The study found that each additional type of violence increased the odds of marijuana use or binge drinking by 11 per cent, and tobacco use by 12 per cent. However, youth who reported high levels of two protective factors, such as a supportive family and a safe school, had much lower probabilities of substance use than those with one or no protective factors.
The research, published in Preventive Medicine Reports, was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.