Abstract: The Role of Community Belongingness in the Mental Health and Well-Being of Black LGBTQ Individuals (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

The Role of Community Belongingness in the Mental Health and Well-Being of Black LGBTQ Individuals

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Liberty Ballroom N, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Keith J. Watts, PhD, Doctoral Student, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Shawndaya Thrasher, PhD, Research Assistant/PhD Student, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Background/Purpose: The impact of racial and sexual minority stigma, prejudice, and discrimination on the mental health and well-being of Black and LGBTQ individuals, respectively, is well documented. Belongingness to identity-based communities can protect against the impact of these minority stressors and aid coping. However, Black LGBTQ individuals often experience minority stress within their racial, sexual, and gender minority communities due to their multiple minority identities. Instead, they may choose to create Black LGBTQ communities as a strategy to access the group-level coping resources needed to support their mental health and well-being. The current study examined the direct association between community belongingness and mental health and well-being for Black LGBTQ individuals, and if coping mediated this relationship, controlling for minority stress.

Methods: Data and Sample: The data are drawn from a mixed-methods online survey of Black LGBTQ adults ages 18 to 64 (n=345) in the United States, which focused on participants’ belongingness to identity-based minority communities, coping, minority stress, mental health, and well-being. Participants reported a range of ethnic identities and non-mutually exclusive sexual orientations and gender identities: 47% Afro-American/African American, 28% Black; 33% gay, 30% bisexual; 34% men, 24% gender-nonconforming/non-binary.

Measures: Community belongingness was measured as a composite score of three subscales – Black Community Belongingness (α =.828), LGBTQ Community Belongingness (α =.815), and Black LGBTQ Community Belongingness (α =.861) – each with nine items adapted from the Transgender Community Belongingness Scale assessing participants’ connection to these identity-based communities. Coping was measured using the adaptive coping subscale (α =.813) of the Brief COPE instrument, which assesses the frequency of coping responses. Minority stress was measured using the 18-item LGBT People of Color Microaggressions Scale, which assesses the frequency and magnitude of microaggression experiences. Mental health was measured using the 25-item Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25, which assesses symptoms of depression and anxiety within the past two weeks. Well-being was measured using the 14-item Mental Health Continuum—Short Form, which assesses participants’ subjective well-being the past two weeks. Age, gender identity, sexual orientation, income, education, and employment, and student status were included as covariates.

Results: A path analysis revealed that community belongingness positively predicts mental health (B = -.29, SE = .06, p =<.001) and wellbeing (B = .33, SE = .05, p =<.001). Further, a mediated path analysis concluded coping partially mediated the relationship between community belongingness and wellbeing (ab = .05 , SE = .02 , p =.03, 95% CI, -.010 – -.161) but did not mediate the relationship between community belongingness and mental health (ab = .02, SE= .02, p =.25, 95% CI, -.023 – .060). Coping accounted for 6% of the total variance in this model [R2 = .06, SE = .03, p =.078].

Conclusions and Implications: Study findings conclude that in a sample of Black LGBTQ individuals, community belongingness improved mental health and well-being outcomes. Adaptive coping partially explained the connection between community belongingness and well-being, but not community belongingness and mental health. Implications for social work practice and education, and future research, are discussed.