SEXUAL ORIENTATION VICTIMIZATION, MINORITY STRESS, AND ADJUSTMENT IN LESBIAN, GAY, AND BISEXUAL YOUTH

Open Access
Author:
Sinclair, Katerina Ocean
Graduate Program:
Human Development and Family Studies
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
December 09, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Anthony Raymond D'augelli, Dissertation Advisor
  • Anthony Raymond D'augelli, Committee Chair
  • Peter Cm Molenaar, Committee Chair
  • Michael J Rovine, Committee Member
  • Zhang, Yu, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • adolescents
  • sexual orientation
  • minority stress
  • victimization
Abstract:
Many lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adolescents experience frequent verbal and physical victimization due to their sexual orientation, which has been associated with mental health and behavioral problems. In order to explain the mechanisms by which victimization affects mental health, Meyer (2003b) theorized that sexual orientation victimization increased more proximal indicators of stress related to sexual orientation, or minority stress, such as fears of being discovered to be LGB and internalized homophobia. These were hypothesized to increase mental health and behavioral problems with further consideration being given to possible mediators or moderators of this association. Using a sample of 528 LGB youth, I tested Meyer’s theoretical model, considering personal resources (self-esteem and mastery), social support, LGB-specific social support, and minority identity characteristics as possible mediators and moderators between minority stress and mental health. Results indicated that sexual orientation victimization predicted mental health and behavioral problems, although this finding disappeared after controlling for other stressful life events. Additionally, victimization predicted minority stress which, in turn, predicted mental health problems. Evidence was found for partial mediation between minority stress and victimization by personal resources and moderation by social support. Furthermore, with the exception of minority identity characteristics, all moderator analyses indicated that externalizing problem behaviors should be treated separately from internalizing behaviors and other mental health symptoms when considering the effect of minority stress on mental health. Youth with worse contexts (i.e., less social support, fewer personal resources) were less likely than youth with more supportive contexts to exhibit externalizing behaviors in response to minority stress but were equally likely to exhibit internalizing behaviors and report increased stress. For minority identity characteristics, no effects were found. Following a summary of the implications of these results, I describe limitations to the current research program and suggest ways for researchers to further examine this theoretical model.