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Protective factors in sexual minority graduate students: A review of the literature

10 June 2013


Gay, lesbian, and bisexual (sexual minority) individuals are at greater risk of experiencing risk factors for negative health and psychological outcomes in adolescence than their straight counterparts. This is largely due to the stigma and social consequences of outwardly identifying as a sexual minority. However, some sexual minority individuals experience protective factors that bolster social support during adolescence, which may act as a buffer against the effects of stigma leading to more positive health and psychological outcomes in adulthood. Both adolescent risk factors and protective factors in sexual minority individuals may contribute to professional success and achievement in adult life vis-à-vis their resultant psychological and health outcomes. As sexual minority individuals in adolescence tend to experience risk and protective factors differently from their straight counterparts, the same may also be true for individuals attending graduate school. Certain protective factors in adolescence may be commonly experienced for individuals who end up attending graduate school. Very little empirical research has been conducted to examine the differential experiences during adolescence with regard to protective factors and sexual minority identification in graduate students. This paper focuses on the impact that protective factors during adolescence may contribute to graduate school as an outcome for sexual minority individuals. Specifically, family support, social support, ego identity, personal psychological resources, and acceptance are considered. Areas of future research are also discussed.


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