Date

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Counseling Psychology

First Adviser

Caskie, Grace I.L.

Other advisers/committee members

Liang, Christopher T. H.; Eckhardt, Amanda G.; Margrett, Jennifer A.

Abstract

Sexual minority (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, and other non-heterosexual orientations) adults over 50 years of age represent a large yet under-researched population. The intersections of sexual orientation- and age-related discrimination and their relationships with well-being have yet to be explored together within this population. In response, this study assessed whether certain aspects of Meyer’s (2003) Minority Stress Theory apply to the sexual minority older adult population, with the additions of the minority stressor of ageism and the stress-ameliorating factor of self-esteem. Specifically, the relationship of minority stressors (i.e., ageism, heterosexism, internalized homonegativity (IH), outness) to well-being (i.e., loneliness, life satisfaction, quality of life (QOL), psychological distress (PD)) was examined as well as whether those relationships were maintained after controlling for demographic variables and were moderated by stress-ameliorating factors (i.e., self-esteem, social support, and social network size) as theorized by Meyer.Hierarchical regression analyses with a sample of 189 sexual minority adults aged 50 and older offered partial support for Meyer’s model. Ageism and heterosexism were significantly related to PD and QOL; additionally, IH was related to PD. These findings remained generally stable after including demographic variables, indicating the saliency for the minority stressors regardless of individuals’ age, gender, sexual orientation, and partner status. The relationship between PD and mild heterosexism was moderated by social network, and the link between PD and mild IH was moderated by social support. Social network also moderated the links between mild IH and both life satisfaction and loneliness. These findings highlight the saliency of ageist and heterosexist discrimination in well-being for sexual minority older adults. This population is at risk for experiencing discrimination due to their marginalized identities, this discrimination has connections with psychosocial well-being, and this population utilizes social supports to buffer against mild levels of minority stress. These results suggest areas for future research on minority stress, with ongoing research on intersections of marginalized identities for older adults as well as the use of other stress-ameliorating strategies for coping with discrimination areas to explore. Findings also call for culturally-sensitive practice in older adult care, including awareness of discrimination and encouragement for coping skills.

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