Methods: We recruited 229 LGBTQ+ emerging adults (18-21 years, M=19.33 years; 42.8% racialized minority; 43.7% gender minority; 99% sexual minority). Participants completed the following instruments: LGBQ Microaggressions on Campus Scale (interpersonal [ω=.89] and environmental microaggressions subscales [ω=.70]), the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (family support [ω=.91] and friend support subscales [ω=.91]), and the Brief Symptom Inventory (depressive symptoms [ω=.88], anxiety symptoms [ω=.86], and overall psychological distress subscales [ω=.96]). We used the PROCESS macro in SPSS to conduct six multiple moderation analyses that investigated whether, and to what extent, family and friend social support moderate the relation between microaggressions and mental health symptoms. Covariates included: age, race/ethnicity, gender modality, pet ownership, participation before vs. after COVID onset, and having basic needs met (e.g., clothing, food).
Results: Neither family nor friend social support significantly moderated the relationship between interpersonal microaggressions and mental health. Social support from friends was a significant moderator of the relation between environmental microaggressions and psychological distress, when family social support was held constant, b=-.12, F(1, 217)=4.36, t(217)=-2.09, p=.04. Specifically, there was a statistically significant and positive association between environmental microaggressions and psychological distress when participants reported low levels of family social support and low levels of friend social support, b=.47, t(217)=5.08, p<.001. This relation was also significant when participants reported high family support, but low friend support, b=.28, t(217)=2.50, p=.01. However, the association between environmental microaggressions and psychological distress was not significant when participants reported high levels of social support from both family and friends. Similarly, the relationship was not significant when participants reported high levels of social support from their friends and moderate levels of support from their family (or vice versa). Social support from friends or family was not a significant moderator in the models investigating the association between environmental microaggressions and depressive or anxiety symptoms.
Conclusion and Implications: These findings suggest that receiving social support from family and friends may buffer the harmful association between exposure to environmental microaggressions and overall psychological distress, but may not play as much of a protective role when considering the relationship between interpersonal microaggressions and depressive and anxiety symptoms. In addition, our results suggest that the degree to which social support moderates this relation varies across relationship types. This study has implications for interventions, as it suggests that support from friends, specifically, may be a key protective factor for LGBTQ+ emerging adults.