Abstract: Measuring Resiliency in LGBT Adults: Hardiness as a Function of the Ability to Challenge Social Stigma (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12800 Measuring Resiliency in LGBT Adults: Hardiness as a Function of the Ability to Challenge Social Stigma

Friday, January 15, 2010: 3:30 PM
Golden Gate (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Mark, S. Smith, PhD , Barry University, Assistant Professor, Miami Shores, FL
Shelley L. Craig, PhD, LCSW , University of Toronto, Assistant Professor, Toronto, ON
Purpose: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals still contend with social barriers such as stigmatization, discrimination, heterosexism, and homophobia. However, most LGBT individuals not only successfully navigate these obstacles, but manage to construct strong, successful, and resilient identities (Russell, 2005; Savin-Williams, 2001). In fact, living outside the dominant culture, enduring the hatred and discrimination of a homophobic society, and surviving the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic may have helped produce resilient, hardy individuals (Meyer, 2003). This paper describes research that contributes to an emerging body of knowledge regarding resiliency in LGBT populations (Anderson, 1998; Green, 2005; Oswald, 2002; Russell & Richards, 2003). A rapid assessment instrument (RAI) designed to measure personal hardiness, a central component of resilience, was developed and psychometrically validated. Hardiness in LGBT individuals is shown to be a function of the ability to cognitively challenge negative social messages (Friend, 1991).

Methods: Instrument design and psychometric validation followed standard protocols for developing new assessment scales (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994; Springer, Abell, and Hudson, 2002; Springer, Abell, & Neugent, 2002). Once the construct to be measured was defined, a three-stage process for validity/reliability testing included: a) generating a pool of potential items, b) administering potential items to a panel of experts to assess content validity, and c) pilot-testing the instrument to determine reliability/validity. Pilot-testing utilized a sample of 391 participants recruited from 3 sources: two large Gay Pride celebrations (n = 95) and a sample of online respondents (n = 296). Analysis of data involved establishing content validity, factor structure analysis, reliability testing, standard error of measurement, and construct validity studies.

Results: The sample consisted of adult individuals (over 18) who self-identified as LGBT. Mean age of respondents was 41.3 and most had completed at least some college or university coursework. Male and female respondents were essentially equivalent in number and nine respondents identified as transgender/gender variant. Differences in participant characteristics from the three sample sites were insignificant. Scores from pilot-testing the instrument revealed surprisingly similar results from the three samples, suggesting reliability across geographic (and electronic) domains. A Cronbach's alpha of .8623 for the composite scale suggested evidence of “respectable” reliability across populations and geographic locations while a standard error of measurement calculation of .2107 confirmed that the alpha calculation was not significantly skewed by sampling or measurement errors.

Conclusions and Implications: Identifying hardiness in LGBT populations as associated with the ability to challenge stigmatizing social messages has distinct implications for advancing social work knowledge and practice. For researchers, practitioners, and educators, a challenge is issued to re-conceptualize the assumptions that have shaped research efforts, the models used in teaching, and the approaches guiding practice (Savin-Williams, 2001). Besides providing researchers and practitioners with a more comprehensive means for assessing LGBT strengths and resilient capacities, this new conceptualization of hardiness may prove beneficial in understanding hardiness in other populations where social stigma, discrimination, and public disapproval are factors (Maddi, 2004).