Childhood Experiences and Mental Health of Sexual Minority Adults: Examining Three Models

Margaret Rosario, Adriana Espinosa, Krystal Kittle, Stephen T. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three models of recalled childhood gender nonconformity (GNC) and maltreatment are proposed to explain disparities in current psychological distress and lifetime suicidality among sexual minority individuals, using a United States probability sample of cisgender lesbian/gay (n = 701), bisexual (n = 606), and other (e.g., queer, n = 182) adults. Indirect effects indicated that lesbian/gay individuals were more likely than bisexual individuals to experience maltreatment and suicidal ideation as childhood GNC increased. Other indirect effects found that bisexual individuals reported more psychological distress and greater likelihood of lifetime suicidal ideation and attempts than lesbian/gay individuals as maltreatment increased. The direct effects of sexual orientation were stronger than the indirect effects via maltreatment or GNC, with bisexual individuals reporting more maltreatment, distress, and suicidality than lesbian/gay individuals. Significant findings for individuals with other identities were similar to those of bisexual individuals. Adjusted findings were comparable for women and men. The findings indicated that sexual minority individuals reported experiences consistent with sexual minority stress during early developmental periods, before being aware of their sexual orientation. It is necessary to understand the early lived experiences of sexual minority individuals, differences between lesbian/gay and bisexual individuals in those experiences, and their implications for adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Sex Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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