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Sexual orientation, psychological well-being, and mental health

A longitudinal analysis from adolescence to young adulthood

In the past, mainly cross-sectional research has shown that nonheterosexuals report lower levels of psychological well-being and functioning than heterosexuals. Drawing on minority stress theory (Meyer, 2003), life span theory, and identity formation theory (Erikson, 1968), the present study analyzed developmental trajectories in psychological functioning from adolescence to young adulthood in nonheterosexual and heterosexual populations.

Based on data from the Michigan Study of Adolescent and Adult Life Transitions (MSALT), nonheterosexual adolescents and young adults were compared with their heterosexual peers regarding their psychological development from the ages of 16 to 28. Overall levels of depressive affect, suicidal ideation, alcohol consumption, and social alienation were elevated for nonheterosexual young adolescents. For depressive affect and social alienation as well as suicidal ideation, the 2 groups grew apart during their high-school years but converged after leaving high school. For alcohol consumption, a divergent trend emerged after high school. No differences were found for self-esteem. None of the interactions between sexual orientation and gender reached statistical significance.

The results point toward a higher degree of complexity in developmental patterns compared with results of previous studies. The study underscores the nonstatic nature of mental health disparities and highlights the potential and the need to prevent psychological maladjustment for nonheterosexual populations.

Becker, Michael; Cortina, Kai S.; Tsai, Yi-Miau; Eccles, Jacquelynne S.: Sexual orientation, psychological well-being, and mental health. A longitudinal analysis from adolescence to young adulthood, in: Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1 (2014) 2, 132-145

last modified Sep 21, 2015