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Internalized sexual prejudice and sense of belonging

1 January 2016


Sexual minority individuals (e.g., people identifying their sexuality as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, queer) are at greater risk of experiencing risk factors for negative health and psychological outcomes than their heterosexual counterparts (Potoczniak, Aldea, & DeBlaere, 2007). This is largely due to the prejudice and social consequences of outwardly identifying as a sexual minority (Russell & Joyner, 2001). However, some sexual minority individuals experience protective factors that may act as buffers against the negative effects of sexual prejudice, leading to more positive health and psychological outcomes in adulthood (Rothman, Sullivan, Keyes, & Boehmer, 2012). Risk factors (e.g., internalized sexual prejudice) and protective factors (e.g., sense of belonging to a community) experienced by sexual minority graduate students may affect their academic achievement and professional success vis-à-vis the resultant psychological and health outcomes of the risk and protective factors that are most salient for them. Because graduate students frequently have to relocate for graduate school, the aim of this study is to provide a greater understanding of their perceived support from their geographic, online, and sexual minority communities and their relation to internalized sexual prejudice. No research has been conducted on graduate student sexual minority individuals regarding the relation between their risk and protective factors. This dissertation expands on extant research that looks at sexual minorities and examines the relation between internalized sexual prejudice and sense of belonging to a geographic, online, and sexual minority community in sexual minority graduate psychology students. Although there is some present literature examining the relations between the above factors, these studies have been conducted with adolescent participants, not graduate students. The results of this study indicated a significant inverse relation between internalized sexual prejudice and sense of belonging to a sexual minority community. In addition, results indicated that sense of belonging to a sexual minority community is significant above and beyond the effects of sense of belonging to online and geographic communities. Sense of belonging to a geographic and online community was found to not be significantly related to internalized sexual prejudice. Implications related to the results and future research directions are discussed.


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