Abstract: LGBQ Microaggressions, Psychological Wellbeing, and Academic Outcomes Among Sexual Minority University Students in Ontario: An Intersectional Analysis (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

LGBQ Microaggressions, Psychological Wellbeing, and Academic Outcomes Among Sexual Minority University Students in Ontario: An Intersectional Analysis

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Liberty Ballroom J, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Michael Woodford, PhD, Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Kitchener, ON, Canada
Harrison Oakes, PhD, Research Associate, Wilfrid Laurier University, ON, Canada
Simon Coulombe, PhD, Assistant Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON, Canada
Zack Marshall, PhD, Assistant Professor, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Background: Campus climate research lacks insight into the effects of LGBQ microaggressions on academic outcomes among sexual minority students and for whom this relationship varies. Microaggressions have been shown to negatively affect psychological wellbeing, and the latter matters for academic outcomes, suggesting it may mediate the impact of microaggressions on academic outcomes. Further, little is known of the role of intersecting identities in this model.

Informed by minority stress and intersectionality theories, we examine conditional process models whereby the effect of LGBQ microaggressions on academic outcomes are mediated by psychological wellbeing and where disability status and race moderate the mediation effect.

Methods: Through outreach on campuses and social media, we recruited a convenience sample of LGBTQ2S+ students (N=3879) from 21 universities in Ontario, Canada. Our analytic sample consists of 3055 sexual minority students; Mage=21.9, 83.7% undergraduate, 22.6% students of color, 17.2% disabled; sexuality: 18.3% gay, 13.4% lesbian, 48.2% bisexual/pansexual, 11.6% queer, 8.4% asexual spectrum; gender identity: 11.8% non-binary+, 6.3% trans feminine, 4.2% trans masculine, 57.8% cisgender woman, 19.9% cisgender man.

Participants completed measures assessing LGBQ microaggressions (interpersonal, α=.92; environmental α=.76), psychological wellbeing (positive mental health, α=.92; psychological distress, α=.86), and academic outcomes (academic disengagement, α=.73; academic satisfaction, α=.88). We tested our models using Model 59 in Hayes’ (2018) Process 3.5.3 for SPSS. Each model included microaggressions as predictor, two psychological wellbeing mediators, one academic outcome, and either disability or race as moderator of the mediation model.

Results: Race did not moderate our mediation models, but disability did. Specifically, disability moderated the negative effect of microaggressions on positive mental health and the positive effect of microaggressions on academic disengagement. The conditional effects of microaggressions were stronger (i.e., more negative for positive mental health, more positive for academic disengagement) for disabled (vs. non-disabled) students. Distress positively predicted academic disengagement and negatively predicted academic satisfaction. The opposite patterns were observed for positive mental health. Neither mediator’s effects on academic outcomes were moderated by disability. The conditional direct effect of microaggressions was positive for academic disengagement and negative for academic satisfaction. In both cases, these effects were at least twice as strong for disabled as non-disabled students. Finally, neither of microaggressions’ indirect effects via psychological distress—positive for academic disengagement, negative for satisfaction—were moderated by disability, though both were significant. However, both indirect effects via positive mental health were moderated by disability such that the conditional indirect effects of microaggressions on academic outcomes were more than twice as strong for disabled (vs. non-disabled) students.

Conclusions: These results lend insight into the implications of sexual minority students’ experiences of LGBQ microaggressions and for whom they are most dire. Specifically, the deleterious effects of microaggressions on academic outcomes are partially explained by the negative impact of microaggressions on students’ psychological wellbeing. Importantly, the negative direct and indirect effects of microaggressions on academic outcomes are particularly pronounced among disabled LGBQ students, suggesting the intersection of disability and sexuality is important for understanding the detrimental effects of microaggressions on academic satisfaction and disengagement.