Microaggressions, sense of belonging, and sexual identity development among LGBQ students: a moderation analysis

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Zachary R. Blackmon (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Laura Gonzalez

Abstract: The difficulties that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or queer (LGBQ) students face on college campuses often keeps them from feeling safe. This lack of safety hinders them from resolving higher level needs, including a sense of belonging—defined as a “student’s perceived social support on campus, a feeling or sensation of connectedness, the experience of mattering or feeling cared about, accepted, respected, valued by, and important to the group . . . or others on campus . . .” (Strayhorn, 2012, p. 17). A specific challenge for LGBQ college students which has been linked to negative outcomes is the consistent exposure to heterosexism, such as microaggressions—defined as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership” (Sue, 2010a, p. 3). Microaggressions targeting LGBQ students’ sexual identity—defined as “a consistent, enduring self-recognition of the meanings that the sexual orientation and sexual behavior have for oneself” (Savin-Williams, 1989, p. 201)—can hinder both their overall and sexual identity development—defined as “the individual and social processes by which persons acknowledge and define their sexual needs, values, sexual orientation, preferences for sexual activities, modes of sexual expression, and characteristics of sexual partners” (Dillon et al., 2011, p. 657). Researchers have highlighted the harmful experience of microaggressions in higher education, specifically within residence halls, and targeting LGBQ students. Existing research focuses on the experiences of LGBQ students with microaggressions and the internalized influence of those experiences. Despite a growing interest in the prevalence of microaggressions, research examining the relationship between them and student outcomes is lacking. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between the perception of being targeted by sexual orientation microaggressions in the residential environment, sense of belonging, and individual sexual identity among LGBQ students. Environmentally, residence halls have been documented as influential spaces for student development and success, particularly for LGBQ students. Findings highlight the role of interpersonal and environmental microaggressions as negative predictors of sense of belonging. Additionally, in the current study sexual identity development was found not to moderate the relationship between microaggressions and sense of belonging. This study adds to the scholarship on these topics and overviews a connection between microaggressions and student outcomes, namely sense of belonging. The current study validated the Psychological Sense of University Membership scale for use in the United States. Future research is needed to (a) better understand the predictors associated with sense of belonging; (b) develop methods for categorizing LGBQ individuals based on sexual identity development; (c) critically examine the constructs of sexual identity and sense of belonging. In regards to practice in Student Affairs or Higher Education, the results of the current study indicate a need for education on the impact of microaggressions, for students, faculty, and staff. Lastly, the results of the study when paired with existing literature, call for a critical look at how higher education evaluates student involvement. By taking into account these considerations, institutions and scholars alike can help cultivate environments where all students, including those who identify as LGBQ, belong.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Harassment, LGBQ, Microaggressions, Sense of Belonging, Sexual Identity, Sexual Identity Development
Sexual minority college students
Sexual minorities $x Identity
Belonging (Social psychology)

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