240967 Sexual attraction and psychosocial well being in young women

Monday, October 31, 2011

Michelle Johns, MPH , Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Jose A. Bauermeister, MPH, PhD , Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI
Marc Zimmerman, PhD , Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Background: Conventional assessments examining health disparities across sexuality rely on self-identification as a sexual minority (e.g., LGBT). Among young women (18 to 24), this indicator may not reliably capture their lived experiences as many women report fluidity in their sexuality over time. As a result, a measure of same-sex and opposite-sex attraction may more accurately reflect sexual minority status and its relationship to psychological well-being; yet the efficacy of such an approach remains untested. Methods: Using an adapted web-version of Respondent-Driven Sampling (webRDS), we recruited a sample of U.S. young adults (YA; 18 to 24; N=3,400). We used a female-only subsample (N=1,570). As part of the web-survey, participants rated on a scale from 1 (Not at all) to 5 (Extremely) their degree of sexual attraction to males and females, respectively. From these scores, women were divided into 4 groups (low female /low male attraction, low female /high male attraction, high female /low male attraction, or high female /high male attraction). We used a 2x2 factorial design to explore the relationship between experiences of attraction and psychosocial outcomes (e.g. depression, self esteem), adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics. Results: Bi-attractional women (e.g., high female / high male attraction) reported greater stress and less self esteem than women in the other groups, but also reported more coping skills than the other women. Conclusions: We discuss findings, noting the unique experiences of bi-attractional women, and highlighting the importance of nuanced measures of sexual identity including sexual attraction - in assessing the psychological well being.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Diversity and culture
Provision of health care to the public

Learning Objectives:
(1) Identify the unique experience of sexual identity formation of young women. (2) Discuss potential influences on the differential psychosocial experiences of same sex attracted women. (3) Understand the unique position of bi-attractional young women in the LGBT community.

Keywords: Youth, Sexuality

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am a doctoral student in Public Health with seven years research experience in LGBT populations.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.