Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Counseling

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Susan Kashubeck-West, PhD


Dr. Brian Hutchison

Dr. Kelly Liao

Dr. Bettina Casad


Prior research has indicated a strong connection between the experience of perceived discrimination and negative mental health outcomes. Sexual minority individuals experience higher rates of psychological distress compared to their heterosexual counterparts and this increased risk has been attributed to stigma-related stress. The psychological mediation framework proposed by Hatzenbuehler (2009) suggests that there are mediators of the relationship between stigma-related stress and mental health outcomes. This study investigated the mediating roles of expectations of rejection and internalized heterosexism in the relationship between the experience of subtle perceived discrimination (sexual orientation microaggressions) and psychological well-being. The model was tested among 233 self-identified sexual minority adults in the United States, with an average age of 42.3 (SD=15.83). The majority of participants were female (48.5%), Caucasian (85%), and exclusively gay or lesbian (51.4%). Results indicated that expectations of rejection and internalized heterosexism mediated the relationship between the experience of microaggressions and psychological well-being. The variables in the model accounted for almost one-third of the amount of variance in psychological well-being scores. Six percent of the variance in internalized heterosexism and 56% of the variance in expectations of rejection were explained by microaggressions. These results may help researchers and therapists understand the complex relationship between experiences of discrimination and mental health outcomes. Counseling implications and future research are discussed.

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