Beyond Coming Out: Relations Between Lesbian and Gay Identity Formation and Psychosocial Well-Being in Young and Middle Adulthood

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Abstract

Using a sample of 511 lesbian and gay (LG) individuals aged 18 to 50 years, this study explores associations between LG identity formation (processes and statuses) and psychosocial well-being (the experience of LG minority stress and the general evaluation of oneself and one’s future perspective). It applies a neo-Eriksonean three-dimensional identity model to the domain of sexual orientation identity and combines variable- and person-centered analyses. As expected, commitment with sexual orientation was positively related to psychosocial well-being, whereas reconsideration of commitment but also in-depth exploration showed negative relations. Correspondingly, closure (high levels of commitment, low levels of exploration and reconsideration) was found to be the most favorable identity status and moratorium (a pattern inverse to that of closure) the most stressful. Deviating from previous research, the achievement status (high levels of commitment and exploration, low levels of reconsideration) ranked only in the middle of psychosocial well-being, as the diffusion status (lack of identity-relevant processes). Results were independent of gender and age. Implications for the understanding of LG identity formation beyond the coming out process are outlined.

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