The Impact of Internalised Homophobia and Coping Strategies on Psychological Distress Following the Experience of Sexual Prejudice
Cornish, Michael James
It is widely accepted that the LGB (Lesbian, gay and bisexual) population have a higher risk of psychological distress compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Meyer (2003) proposed the minority stress model to explain this increased prevalence. This model proposed that the LGB population are subjected to additional stressors due to their minority status which results in the increased psychological distress observed. The purpose of this study was to investigate some of the risk factors proposed by this model, specifically experiences of sexual prejudice, negative internalised beliefs about homosexuality/bisexuality, coping strategies and how these factors interact to influence the development of psychological distress. This study included 542 LGB individuals who completed measures of sexual prejudice, internalised homophobia, coping strategies and current levels of psychological distress using an online survey. The study found a high prevalence of sexual prejudice within the sample, with 84% of the sample reporting at least one experience of sexual prejudice. 67% reported being verbally abused and 17% reported being physically assaulted. A high number of participants scored above the cut-off for a diagnosis of depression (27%) and anxiety (19%). Regression and path analysis revealed that maladaptive coping had the strongest effect on psychological distress. Sexual prejudice and internalised homophobia, also both had a significant direct impact upon psychological distress, and they were also partially mediated by maladaptive coping. Problem-focused coping was found to be a protective factor with a direct, albeit weak, effect on psychological distress. Problem-focused coping also partially mediated the relationship between sexual prejudice and psychological distress, slightly reducing the negative impact of sexual prejudice. The results suggest that maladaptive coping was the greatest risk factor, out of the ones measured, in the development of psychological distress in the LGB population. The outcomes suggest that clinical psychologists may wish to target their interventions at the development of more adaptive coping strategies, and the reduction of internalised homophobia. They should consider ways to reduce experiences of sexual prejudice by working at a community level to reduce the stigma of homosexuality/bisexuality.