Are Outness and Community Involvement Risk or Protective Factors for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Among Sexual Minority Women?

Brian A. Feinstein*, Christina Dyar, Bonita London

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    41 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Sexual minority women (SMW) are at increased risk for substance abuse compared to heterosexual women. Two psychosocial factors that have been implicated in SMW’s substance abuse are outness and LGBT community involvement, but findings have been mixed as to whether these are risk or protective factors. One possible explanation is that they may have different consequences for subgroups of SMW (lesbians, bisexual women, and queer women). While being open about one’s sexual orientation and involved in the community may be protective for lesbians, discrimination against bisexual women may lead these same factors to contribute to substance abuse for bisexual women. It is unclear how these associations will operate for queer women, given limited research on this subpopulation. The current study examined whether sexual identity moderated the associations between outness and community involvement with alcohol and drug abuse. We also examined whether perceived discrimination would help explain why these associations may be different for subgroups of SMW. A sample of 288 self-identified SMW (113 lesbians, 106 bisexual women, and 69 queer women) completed an online survey. Higher outness was associated with higher alcohol and drug abuse for bisexual women, but not for lesbians or queer women. Similarly, higher community involvement was associated with higher drug abuse for bisexual women, but not for lesbians or queer women. Among bisexual women, the association between community involvement and drug abuse was mediated by perceived discrimination. Further, the association between outness and drug abuse was mediated by both community involvement and perceived discrimination. Findings demonstrate that outness and community involvement function as risk factors for substance abuse for bisexual women, in part due to their associations with discrimination.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1411-1423
    Number of pages13
    JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
    Volume46
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

    Keywords

    • Bisexuals
    • Lesbians
    • Perceived discrimination
    • Queer women
    • Sexual orientation
    • Substance abuse

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Psychology(all)

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