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Functional Specificity in the Minority Stress Model: The Influence of Network Characteristics on Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual Individuals Under Age 35
AuthorMartini, Peter Joseph
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Though the minority stress model has been frequently tested in literature related to LGB health, the mechanisms through which individual social network composition impacts social support, and thereby mental health, have not been widely explored. To better understand the mechanisms at play in the minority stress model this study uses the concept of functional specificity in core discussion networks (CDNs). This theory, proposed by Perry and Pescosolido (2010) rests on the assumption that the discussion networks individuals utilize depend, in large part, on the stressors faced. By integrating the theory of functional specificity and minority stress this work tests the assertion that LGB individuals have functionally specific CDN to address stressors related to their minority sexual identity. Additionally, the characteristics of this network (i.e., homophily with regard to sexual orientation identity) moderate the degree to which these functionally specific CDNs impact mental health. Results of this project provided additional weight to the assertion that each sexual orientation identity is unique in terms of the manner in which the network characteristics and perceived social support buffer minority stress. Identity prominence and identity valence, collectively referred to as minority identity characteristics, are shown to have a relationship with social support. The original minority stress model did not predict this relationship, nor the result indicating minority identity has different effect on perceived social support within the general important matters network and the sexuality-related stressors network. Additionally, this work provides support for the assertion that network characteristics are an important factor to consider when looking at the effectiveness of community as a moderator of minority stress. Closeness, frequency of contact, and homophily had an impact on mental health directly, as well as a moderating impact on minority stressors. In particular, homophily was shown to have a negative effect on mental health and well-being for bisexual females, whereas homophily was shown to have a positive effect on mental health and well-being for gay males. Finally, support was added to the functional specificity hypothesis by showing LGB individuals utilize different individuals for dealing with sexuality-related stressors. The sexuality-specific stressor network contains unique nodes not present in the general important matters network. This result suggests LGB folks turn to a specific group of individuals for support with sexuality-related issues. Moreover, there are individuals who provide support for general important matters who are not utilized when LGB folks are faced with sexuality-specific stressors. Finally, the proportion of LGB individuals within the sexuality-specific network is higher than the proportion of LGB individuals in the general important matters network.