Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Michelle L. Kelley
Sarah J. Ehlke
Sexual minority (SM) college students continue to face greater mental health problems relative to their heterosexual peers (Woodford et al., 2014; Wilson & Liss, 2022). According to minority stress theory, SM individuals face distal (e.g., heterosexist discrimination) and proximal (e.g., expectations of rejection, internalized homophobia, and concealment) stressors related to their SM identity which can have negative effects on their mental health (Douglass & Conlin, 2020; Meyer, 2003). However, social support has been hypothesized to help protect against the effects of minority stress experienced by SM individuals (Cohen & Wills, 1985; Moody & Smith, 2013). Most of the existing research with SM college students has examined social support more broadly, and less empirical attention has been given to sexuality-specific support, which attends to the specific range of stressors related to one’s sexual identity (Doty et al., 2010; Sheets & Mohr, 2009).
Thus, the current study had three aims: 1) to examine if distal stress (i.e., heterosexist discrimination) and proximal stress (i.e., internalized homophobia) were associated with mental health symptoms among SM college students, 2) to examine if general social support moderated the associations between distal minority stress (i.e., heterosexist discrimination) and proximal minority stress (i.e., internalized homophobia) and mental health symptoms among SM college students, and 3) to examine if sexuality-specific social support moderated the associations between distal minority stress (i.e., heterosexist discrimination) and proximal minority stress (i.e., internalized homophobia) and mental health symptoms, among SM college students. A total of 268 undergraduate college students who self-identified as a sexual minority individual completed a survey assessing minority stress, social support, and mental health symptoms. Distal minority stress (i.e., heterosexist discrimination) was directly associated with mental health symptoms. General social support moderated the link between proximal minority stress (i.e., internalized homophobia) and mental health symptoms, and this association was strongest for individuals with more general social support. Clinicians should consider utilizing interventions to increase social support to address the psychological impact of minority stress and universities should adopt anti-discrimination policies and curricula to promote LGBTQ+ acceptance. Suggestions for improving social support, reducing discrimination, and creating an inclusive campus environment are discussed.
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Golembiewski, Lee A..
"The Effect of Minority Stress on Sexual Minority College Students' Mental Health: The Role of General Social Support and Sexuality-Specific Social Support"
(2023). Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Dissertation, Psychology, Old Dominion University, DOI: 10.25777/y975-4658