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Michelle Mencia, Marianna Carlucci, Ph.D., Emalee Quickel, Ph.D., Gina Magyar-Russell, Ph.D.

Religion and Mental Health in LGBQ+ Emerging Adults

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Although limited, the research suggests that there is a connection between LGBQ+ populations who identify as religious and the negative impact that non-affirming and unsupportive religious institutions have on overall mental health. That is, those who experienced inner and interpersonal conflicts choosing between sexual and religious identity face the possibility of experiencing shame, guilt, and depression due to the strict values that deny the acceptance of identifying as LGBQ+ (Hill & Pargament, 2008; Beagan & Hattie, 2015; Kashubeck-West et al., 2017). Negative messages and lack of perceived support from scripture, religious leaders, community members, and family members increases the likelihood of mental health concerns and internalized homophobia (Barnes & Meyer, 2012). 

            Research on this topic has been historically dominated by studies on heterosexual populations, relationships, and lifestyles - including those that focus on the implications of religion (Barrow & Kuvalanka, 2011). Some research exists on LGBQ+ populations, religious identities, and mental health. Most of these studies are qualitative research studies conducted with small sample sizes and limited to dominant religions, gender, and excluding other sexual identities (Bozard & Sanders, 2011). Additionally, not much research has focused on emerging adults. The current study was designed to expand on the existing research using a quantitative method, including emerging adults, and encompassing the LGBQ+ spectrum and various religious faiths.

While not every religious LGBQ+ member may be experiencing negative feedback from their faith tradition, it is important to validate and explore the themes found in the personal narratives that have been shared in the literature that do suggest difficulty integrating both sexual and religious identities (Beagan & Hattie, 2015). Additionally, much of the research has not been updated to the constant changes in the world that reflect today’s zeitgeist. In addition to the existing literature, updated research will be helpful in quantifying social and cultural changes in the realm of religious viewpoints on the topic. Knowing how these sexual and religious interpersonal conflicts may be correlated to depression, internalized shame, and homonegativity can be informative for future research and for clinical implications in helping and understanding the pain felt by LGBQ+ clients through these identity difficulties.

The current study employed a correlational and exploratory design that investigates religious support, internalized shame, depression, and internalized homonegativity for individuals that identify as LGBQ+ and have been and/or are currently a part of an organized religion. The data have been collected and cleaned and participants of the study consist of 152 students aged 18 to 28 enrolled at Loyola University Maryland. These participants were surveyed through Loyola’s online participant pool Sona system that can fulfill course requirements or act as extra-credit for psychology classes. Main analyses that will be conducted include Pearson correlations and multiple regression models to assess for moderating variables. Preliminary and descriptive data will be provided.


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