University of ArizonaNorton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

Ryan Watson

Academic Program: 
Family Studies and Human Development
B.A. in Psychology, Political Science, UCLA; M.S. in Family Studies & Human Development, University of Arizona
Los Angeles, California


Ryan Watson is a fourth year Ph.D. student currently working on his dissertation, entitled "Risk and Protective Factors for Sexual Minority Youth Over Time and Across Cultures". His research focuses on sexual-minority adolescents & young adults and their interpersonal relationships. He works with Drs. Stephen Russell and Adela Licona to identify factors that lead to the positive adjustment for minority youth. 

Ryan's work is assisted by a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, which funds his independent research from August 2011-August 2014. His Master’s thesis explored the buffering effect of romantic relationships and the potential links of family support and academic achievement for sexual minorities through nationally representative prospective data.

In the fall of 2013, Ryan participated in a Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide fellowship program and traveled to Trondheim, Norway to collaborate with a colleague (Dr. Lars Wichstrøm) to analyze prospective Norwegian data and further his program of research. This four-month collaboration was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Research Council of Norway. He wrote a blog to document these experiences. An article was published by LiveScience that highlighted Ryan's research.

In the summer of 2014, Ryan will travel to Utrecht, Netherlands to participate in the SRA/EARA International summer school.This opportunity provides a training funded by the Jacobs Foundation and brings together established researchers, recognized for their expertise and teaching abilities with doctoral students from around the globe for five, intensive days of research training.

Ryan has been involved with the Crossroads Collaborative, a Ford Foundation-funded interdisciplinary group of scholars that is dedicated to advancing research, graduate training, public conversation, and ultimately social change in the area of youth, sexuality, health, and rights. To disseminate his findings to the general public, Ryan has published an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Stara letter to the editor of the Daily Wildcat, and appeared on Fox News in Tucson. In addition, he created and published a research brief on bullying in Tucson.

Ryan is a Principal investigator (PI) along with Dr. Shannon Snapp on an ongoing qualitative study that investigates the motivations for "hooking up" amongst college students. In addition, Ryan has worked with local organizations to help thwart and educate about bullying; he presented workshops with Congressman Ron Barber and Dr. Sheri Bauman to teachers, law enforcement officials, school administrators, and parents.

Youth & Sexuality Action Research
Recent Accomplishments: 

Fellowships, Awards, and Grants

EARA/SRA Summer School; Utrecht, Netherlands ($4850), 2014
Jacobs Foundation Grant; Izmir, Turkey ($995),2014
Interdisciplinary Development Achievement Award ($100), 2014
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Worldwide Fellowship ($14,560), 2014
National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship ($130,000), 2011-2014
University of Arizona Diversity Fellowship ($10,000), 2012

Recent Publications

Watson, R.J., & Russell, S.T. (revise & resubmit, Journal of Research on Adolescence). Disengaged or bookworm: Academics, mental health, and success for sexual minority youth.

Watson, R.J., Barnett, M.A., & Russell, S.T. (under review, Journal of School Psychology). Parents of sexual minorities: Support matters for educational success.

Watson, R.J., Wheldon, C.W. & Russell, S.T. (under review, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development). How does sexual identity disclosure impact school experiences?

Wheldon, C.W., Watson, R.J., Buhi, E.R. (under review, American Journal of Public Health). Sexual orientation and co-occurring psychosocial health problems among male college students in the United States.

Snapp, S., Watson, R.J., Russell, S.T., & Ryan, C. (under review, Family Relations). Family acceptance and healthy adjustment of  LGB young adults.



Watson, R.J., Wichstrøm, L., Russell, S.T. (September). Comparing sexual minorities across cultures: Norway and the United States. Paper accepted at the biannual meeting of the European Association for Research on Adolescence, Izmir, Turkey.

Watson, R.J., Wichstrøm, L., Russell, S.T. (September). Social support’s impact on depression for sexual minorities in Norway. Paper accepted at the biannual meeting of the European Association for Research on Adolescence, Izmir, Turkey.

Watson, R.J., Russell, S.T., Grossman, A.H. (May). Social support and self-esteem amongst sexual minority youth. Paper accepted at Association for Psychological Science, San Francisco.

Watson, R.J., Grossman, A.H. Russell, S.T. (March). Sources of social support and their impact on depression for sexual minority youth. Poster presented at the biannual meeting of the Society for Research on Adolescence, Austin, Texas.


Watson, R.J., & Russell, S.T. (April). The importance of academic engagement for non- heterosexual youth’s psychosocial outcomes. Paper presented at the biannual meeting of the Society of Research on Child Development, Seattle, Washington. Discussant: Dr. Lisa Diamond.

Watson, R.J., Grossman, A. H. & Russell, S.T. (April). The impact of different forms of victimization on self-mutilation behaviors and the role of protective factors for LGBT youthPoster presented at the Society of Research on Child Development, Seattle, Washington.     


Watson, R.J., & Russell, S.T. (August). The impact of interpersonal relationships on educational outcomes for sexual minority youth. Symposium chair and paper presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for Research on Adolescence, Spetses, Greece.

Watson, R.J., Licona, A., & Russell, S.T. (May). The prevalence and implications of bullying in Tucson schools for youth. Paper presented at the New Directions Conference, Tucson, AZ.

Watson, R.J., Sinclair, K.O., & Russell, S.T. (March). The effects of being out on academiv achievement. Poster presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence, Vancouver, Canada.

Teaching Experience

Co-Instructor: Human Sexuality and Relationships; FSHD 450 (2014)
Instructor: Human Sexuality and Relationships; Overall Effectiveness: 4.8/5.0 (2013)
Co-Instructor: Human Sexuality and Relationships; Overall Effectiveness: 4.3/5.0 (2012)
Co-Instructor: Human Sexuality and Relationships; Overall Effectiveness: 4.6/5.0 (2011)

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