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Introduction: Although there is emerging evidence that companion animals are important sources of comfort and support for many LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other sexual and gender minority identities) individuals, little is known about the interplay between sexual and gender minority (SGM) stress, human-animal interaction (HAI), and psychological adjustment in this population. To address this gap in the literature, the current study examined the role of HAI in relations between SGM stress (i.e., microaggressions, victimization) and psychological adjustment (i.e., self-efficacy, psychological stress) during emerging adulthood.

Methods: Our sample included LGBTQ+ young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 years (N = 136; 37.5% racial/ethnic minority; 49.2% transgender or gender-expansive; 98.5% sexual minority). Participants were recruited via convenience sampling methods in partnership with community agencies. We tested a mediation model using structural equation modeling with a bootstrapping approach to examine direct and indirect associations between SGM stress, HAI, and psychological adjustment, controlling for the effects of demographic factors.

Results: The hypothesized mediation model fit the data well (Χ2/df = 1.71, CFI = 0.96, TLI = 0.93, RMSEA = 0.07, SRMR = 0.04). Results indicated that SGM microaggressions were significantly associated with HAI (β = 0.45, p < .001, 95% CI [0.24, 0.62]) and psychological stress (β = 0.36, p < .001, 95% CI [0.19, 0.54]), but not self-efficacy. Victimization was not significantly associated with HAI, self-efficacy, or psychological stress. HAI was significantly and positively associated with self-efficacy (β = 0.31, p < .001, 95% CI [0.13, 0.47]), but was not significantly related to psychological stress. Finally, we found evidence of only one indirect-only effect of SGM microaggressions on self-efficacy via HAI (β = 0.14, p = .001, 95% CI [0.07, 0.24]).

Conclusion: This is the first study, to our knowledge, that explored the potential mediating role of HAI in the relations between SGM microaggressions, victimization, self-efficacy, and psychological stress. Results of this study suggest that exposure to SGM stress may lead LGBTQ+ young adults to seek out relationships with pets, which in turn, may promote self-efficacy, a factor associated with resilience. However, due to the cross-sectional nature of our data, we cannot infer causation. Further research is needed to explore the longitudinal reciprocal associations between SGM stress, HAI, and psychological adjustment over time, and mechanisms through which HAI may promote resilience in this population.


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LGBTQ, companion animals, coping, resilience, victimization, microaggressions, minority stress


Psychology | Social Work

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Shelby E. McDonald

Is Part Of

VCU Graduate Research Posters

Relations Between Sexual and Gender Minority Stress, Personal Hardiness, and Psychological Stress in Emerging Adulthood: Examining Indirect Effects via Human-Animal Interaction