Freshman Scholars Program 2013

The Experiences of LGBTQ Adolescents and Young Adults in Rural Appalachia:  Identity, Risk, and Resilience

Instructor:  Angie Dahl, Ph.D.


Project Description:

Up to two students interested in the impact of context on one's developmental experiences; students interested in rural contexts, religion, sexuality, identity, and/or psychology.

During adolescence, youth work to define their own self-concept through increased emotional independence, as well as increasing autonomy in decisions regarding sexual behavior, career choice, schooling, values, friendships and more (Coleman & Hendry, 1999). Each of these factors relates to the key task of adolescence:  the formation of identity (Erikson, 1968). For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth, this process may be complicated as they attempt to develop a positive sense of self amidst a heterosexist society. Research has highlighted the importance of context in this process, noting the resiliency of LGBTQ adolescents and young adults raised in Appalachian rural contexts. Freshman scholars will have the opportunity to engage in study dissemination, data collection, and preliminary analysis of both quantitative and qualitative findings.

Students will initially undergo training to gain broader insight and sensitivity concerning rural and sexual identity, particularly LGBTQ development. Students will also be given a broad background in research related to identity. Upon completing this training, students will pilot the proposed study. Changes will be made to the piloted study as necessary, and the study will be developed on Pyschdata. Next, students will engage in participant recruitment and study dissemination for our online study. Students will create the advertising materials for the study and engage in contacting potential participants through Facebook advertisements and targeted emails to LGBTQ student groups. While data collection will begin in early August, it is likely the data collection will not be completed until mid-September at the earliest. However, students will be involved in looking at the initial data collected to make needed modifications to the survey and pinpoint any difficulties with the study.


Angie Dahl, Ph.D.

Dr. Angie Dahl received her B.A. degree in psychology and religion from Concordia College (Moorhead), a small liberal arts college. It was during this experience where she became interested in identity development, particularly religious influences on one's process of self-identification. She completed graduate degrees in both the areas of religion (Luther Seminary) and clinical, counseling, and school psychology (Utah State University). Trained as a clinical and counseling psychologist, she continues to ask questions about the influence of context on one's developmental experiences. She hopes to use findings from her research to develop preventative and intervention efforts aimed at providing a safe and healthy developmental experience for adolescents and young adults.

If you have specific questions about this project, please contact Dr. Dahl directly at ADahl@ferrum.edu.

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