iams, 1996). It has been suggested that having learned to handle their ethnic minority status may better equip lesbians to also handle their status as a sexual minority (Savin-Williams, 1996).
Very little information is available about specific developmental issues that might emerge in childhood for lesbians. There is a larger although still limited research base on homosexuality in adolescents. Little of this work, however, has focused exclusively on lesbians. Further, systematic longitudinal studies of development and adjustment are lacking (Savin-Williams and Rodriguez, 1993; Sullivan, 1994). Finally, earlier research, particularly that which focused on pathological behavior, may be of less relevance to understanding the well-being of contemporary lesbian adolescents given the contextual changes in society that have acted to increase the visibility of homosexuality and the availability of support systems for lesbian and gay youth. Nonetheless, the evidence suggests that the following issues are particularly salient for adolescent lesbians.
Development of Sexual Identity. The basic processes involved in the development of sexual orientation remain poorly understood. Although the core feelings and attractions that may form the basis of sexual orientation often emerge by early adolescence, developmental precursors have not been clearly identified for lesbian and bisexual identities (APA, 1997). Additional study is needed to better understand the processes of development involved in the acquisition and consolidation of lesbian sexual orientation and identity.
Little is known about how sexual identity develops or how the development of a homosexual sexual orientation differs between men and women. However, it does appear that awareness of sexual orientation can occur at quite young ages. In a study of 194 lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth aged 21 years or younger, respondents described their first awareness of sexual orientation as occurring at about the age of 10, with about 6 years elapsing before disclosure to another person (D'Augelli and Hershberger, 1993). There is also evidence that this awareness of identity occurs similarly in heterosexuals and lesbians. A study of 358 heterosexual,