Ford Foundation Awards $4.1 Million for Innovative Research on Youth Sexuality

The New York City-based Ford Foundation has announced grants totaling $4.1 million to six organizations to conduct research on the social, economic, and cultural factors that affect the sexual understanding and behavior of American youth.

The organizations will use the funds to conduct rigorous social science research, support graduate students working to develop the next generation of expertise and knowledge, and make the findings accessible in ways that deepen public understanding of youth sexuality and inform public discussions, policies, and community-based programs.

Recipients include the Oakland-based Public Health Institute and its Center for Research on Adolescent Health and Development, which will use the grant to explore the sexual and reproductive health and rights of foster youth and parent-adolescent communication; the University of Illinois, which will use its grant to examine how adolescents think about harassment and bullying related to gender, sex, and sexuality; the Face Value Project, which, in collaboration with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, the Sloan School of Management at MIT, and New York University, will examine public attitudes and stereotypes about LGBT sexuality; and the University of Michigan, which will use its grant to explore the sexual health outcomes of economically vulnerable youth in Detroit, including African-American girls, transgendered youth, and Latinos involved in gangs.

In addition, researchers at the University of Arizona, together with the Gay-Straight Alliance Network and YWCA Tucson, will explore young Latinas' relationships with their mothers and fathers in terms of sexual socialization and gender identity development, as well as how young people are using social media in relation to sexuality. And a team at San Francisco State University's Health Equity Institute will collaborate with California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and FACES for the Future to study individual and systemic factors underlying the complexities of adolescent sexuality and childbearing among Latino youth.

"The thing that most excites us about these projects is the explicit commitment of the teams to link their research to public conversation and public policy debate," said Margaret Hempel, director of the Ford Foundation's Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights program. "The evidence from this research really could give voice to some of the struggles young people face today as they search for understanding of their sexuality and also help advance how we think about programs and policies intended to help them."