Semester of Graduation

Spring 2024


Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Sexual minority individuals experience higher rates of psychological concerns. Research suggests that social stigma contributes to these disparities in psychological adjustment via minority stress theory. However, the impact of minority stress between sexual orientation groups has been largely underexamined with limited studies focusing on sexual minority youth (SMY). Among the existing studies, many have conceptualized sexuality as a single categorical variable (e.g., gay, straight, or bisexual) and few have included sexual identities diverging from the gender binary (e.g., pansexual, asexual, and queer individuals), which may erroneously skew our understanding of distinct experiences between sexually diverse groups. The purpose of this study was to contribute to the current understanding of the role of minority stress on mental health among SMY, while addressing the identified shortcomings of previous literature. Data from an online survey was analyzed which included adolescents (n = 125) who self-identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or queer. Due to low endorsement of some sexual orientations, participants were combined based on endorsed sexual attraction into four groups: gay/lesbian (n = 20), bisexual (n = 25), pansexual/queer (n = 27), and asexual (n = 53). Participants reported their experiences as a sexual minority and symptoms of internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Analyses revealed significant group differences in rates of sexual minority stress and externalizing symptoms (i.e., risky behavior engagement) but not internalizing symptoms (i.e., anxiety and depression). Specifically, findings indicated that youth who identify as gay/lesbian experience significantly higher sexual minority stress than other SMY, and asexual youth reported significantly lower rates of externalizing problems than gay/lesbian youth. There were no other significant group differences. When covarying sexual minority stress, relationships between the orientation groups and externalizing problems were no longer significant. That is, minority stress related to one’s sexual orientation appears to account for the development of externalizing symptoms in SMY. The results of this study indicate that SMY face distinct risks and experiences in relation to their orientation status. Thus, the impact of sexual minority stress on mental health must be considered when providing therapeutic services to SMY.



Committee Chair

Kelley, Mary L.

Available for download on Monday, March 22, 2027