Health & Wellness

Celebrating Pride: Examining Effect of Psychological Inflexibility on Sexual Minority Youth Health

To celebrate Pride Month in June, a Utah State Today series is highlighting university employees and students who are conducting research, academic pursuits and other projects related to or that benefit the LGBTQIA+ community.

Sean Weeks

Doctoral Candidate in School Psychology

  • Area of study: Psychological Inflexibility in Sexual Minority Adolescents

Why is this work important?

“Sexual minority adolescents disproportionally struggle with mental and physical health disparities. By identifying the relationships between behavioral health and minority stress, researchers and practitioners can begin to think about how this disparity can be addressed by evidence-based care and treatment.”

Summary of research:

Adolescence is a difficult time, especially for those who identify as sexual minorities. Rates of substance abuse and suicidality tend to be worse in the sexual minority adolescent community than in majority groups, and minority stress has been accepted within the research community as a mechanism to explain these health disparities. This study examined psychological inflexibility as a possible further explanation for this disparity in rates of substance misuse or suicidality. Psychological inflexibility is a pattern in which behavior is controlled more by thoughts and internal experiences than by chosen goals and values, and it can be treated through acceptance and commitment therapy.

In this study, 152 adolescent sexual minority participants were assessed for traits of psychological inflexibility and its effects on either substance misuse or suicidality caused by minority stress. Certain traits of psychological inflexibility appear to increase substance misuse in combination with minority stress. While this combination does not appear to significantly increase suicidality, psychological inflexibility directly effects suicidality.

These results suggest that psychological inflexibility in sexual minority adolescents is worth further study, and that psychological inflexibility explains a small but significant portion of the effect of minority stress on substance misuse. Acceptance commitment therapy should be further examined as an avenue for treatment in sexual minority populations struggling with minority stress or substance misuse.

Read more about the research on ScienceDirect

Learn about the research and practice team in the Department of Psychology and School Psychology Program at USU


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