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 fifth year Ph.D. student (All But Dissertation) 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 has been assisted by a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, which funded 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.

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 traveled to Utrecht, Netherlands in the summer of 2014 to participate in the SRA/EARA International summer school. This opportunity provided intensive training funded by the Jacobs Foundation; established researchers in adolesence recognized for their expertise and teaching abilities mentored doctoral students from around the globe for five days of research training.

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.

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. (in press). Disengaged or bookworm: Academics, mental health, and success for sexual minority youth. Journal of Research on Adolescence.

Licona, A.C. & Watson, R. J. (in press). Sexual minorities in the US. In The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Watson, R.J., & Russell, S.T. (2014). LGBTQ Families and Schools. In the American Educational Research Association annual report. (Edited book forthcoming)

Russell, S.T., Watson, R.J., & Muraco, J.A. (2011). Development of same-sex intimate relationships. In B. Laursen & A.W. Collins (Eds.), Relationship Pathways: From Adolescence to Young Adulthood. Thousand Oaks: Sage Press, 215-233.

Manuscripts Under Review
Watson, R.J., Wheldon, C.W, & Russell, S.T. (revise & resubmit). How does sexual identity disclosure impact school experiences?

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

Wheldon, C.W., Watson, R.J., Buhi, E.R. (under review). Sexual orientation and co-occurring psychosocial health problems among male college students.

Watson, R.J., Barnett, M.A., & Russell, S.T. (under review). How does parent warmth of sexual minorities impact their educational success? 


Watson, R.J., McDonald, D., & Carter, R. (March). Reducing Youth Risk Behaviors Through Interactive Theatre. Poster submitted at the biannual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

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 presented 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 academic achievement. Poster presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence, Vancouver, Canada.

Teaching Experience

Instructor: Close Relationships (in-person, Spring); FSHD 450 (2015)
Co-Instructor: Human Sexuality and Relationships (online, Summer); FSHD 450 (2014)
Instructor: Human Sexuality and Relationships (online, Summer)Overall Effectiveness: 4.8/5.0 (2013)
Co-Instructor: Human Sexuality and Relationships (online, Summer)Overall Effectiveness: 4.3/5.0 (2012)
Co-Instructor: Human Sexuality and Relationships (online, Summer); Overall Effectiveness: 4.6/5.0 (2011)

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