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Coming Out Growth: Conceptualizing and Measuring Stress-Related Growth Associated with Coming Out to Others as a Sexual Minority

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Coming out has long been depicted as a process that is conducive to personal growth. However, LGBTQ psychology has yet to conduct systematic, theoretically informed research to study how individuals experience coming out growth (COG) and the impact of such experiences on the lives of sexual minorities. The present investigation seeks to address these gaps in the literature through an examination of stress-related growth within the context of coming out as a sexual minority. Findings from a preliminary investigation of COG in a sample of 418 gay and lesbian adults are presented, including the development and initial validation of the coming out growth scale (COGS), and data addressing the relationship between COG and relevant constructs found in the literature on identity development and stress-related growth. KeywordsStress-related growth-Lesbian women-Gay men-Identity development-Disclosure-Measure development
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Coming Out Growth: Conceptualizing and Measuring
Stress-Related Growth Associated with Coming Out
to Others as a Sexual Minority
Michelle D. Vaughan Charles A. Waehler
Published online: 6 October 2009
!Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009
Abstract Coming out has long been depicted as a process
that is conducive to personal growth. However, LGBTQ
psychology has yet to conduct systematic, theoretically
informed research to study how individuals experience
coming out growth (COG) and the impact of such experi-
ences on the lives of sexual minorities. The present
investigation seeks to address these gaps in the literature
through an examination of stress-related growth within the
context of coming out as a sexual minority. Findings from
a preliminary investigation of COG in a sample of 418 gay
and lesbian adults are presented, including the development
and initial validation of the coming out growth scale
(COGS), and data addressing the relationship between
COG and relevant constructs found in the literature on
identity development and stress-related growth.
Keywords Stress-related growth !Lesbian women !
Gay men !Identity development !Disclosure !
Measure development
Introduction
The notion that disclosing one’s sexual minority identity to
others can produce experiences of growth has strong roots
within the field of psychology. Erikson’s (1959,1970,
1982) model of identity development sets the stage for
models of sexual minority development through his focus
on developmental tasks (crises) that must be navigated
successfully in order to form a healthy personality. Erikson
argued that individuals who work through crises by
establishing a balance between the opposing forces
embedded in each stage experience specific types of per-
sonality growth. Within the context of the identity crisis
(Identity Achievement vs. Role Confusion), individuals
who successfully work through this stage develop a posi-
tive personal and social identity that is broadly shared with
others. As a consequence, individuals experience what
Erikson termed the basic strength of fidelity, reflecting a
greater internal and external trust (and trustworthiness), a
commitment to higher goals, a sense of life purpose/
direction, the establishment of more authentic relation-
ships, and gains in self-esteem, self-efficacy, health, and
inner security (Erikson 1970,1982). These ‘‘virtues’
(Erikson 1959) are directly linked to the process of work-
ing through stressful life tasks, and thereby reflect growth
associated with a stressful life experience, otherwise
known as stress-related growth or SRG (also termed post-
traumatic growth or perceived benefits: Affleck et al. 1987;
Park et al. 1996; Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996) that occur in
a developmental context.
Erikson’s contribution to modern models of lesbian and
gay (LG) identity development has been widely noted (e.g.,
Cass 1979/1984; Coleman 1981/1982; McCarn and Fas-
singer 1996; McDonald 1982; Sophie 1985/1986; Troiden
1979,1989), as broadly informing the structure and content
of these models. Specifically, major authors within this
literature have agreed that sexual minority identity devel-
opment is both highly stressful (Boon and Miller 1999;
LaSala 2000) and can be growth-enhancing (Balsam 2003;
M. D. Vaughan
Department of Psychology and Neurobehavioral Sciences,
The University of Virginia Center for Addiction Research
and Education (UVA-CARE), Charlottesville, VA, USA
e-mail: mdv5n@virginia.edu
C. A. Waehler (&)
Department of Psychology, The University of Akron, Akron,
OH, USA
e-mail: cwaehle@uakron.edu
123
J Adult Dev (2010) 17:94–109
DOI 10.1007/s10804-009-9084-9
Halpin and Allen 2004; Konik and Stewart 2004; Moradi
et al. 2009; Riggle et al. 2008). Others have described the
process of coming out to others as growth-enhancing and
highly important to developing an integrated identity
(Hetrick and Martin 1987; Sophie 1985/1986; Troiden
1993). It has even been suggested that such experiences of
growth may provide sexual minorities with important
strengths that can be used to effectively manage stress
related to their minority status (Brown 1989; Moradi et al.
2009). Dating back as far as the 1970s, authors have
broadly acknowledged positive psychological aspects of
the sexual minority experience, referring to ‘‘our own
special, life-affirming gay growth track’’ (Berzon 1979,
p. 12). Reflecting the influence of Erikson, these growth
experiences have been linked to the identity development
process itself. Bonet et al. (2007) summarized much of the
literature in this area by stating that ‘‘coming to terms with
one’s sexual identity, while often stressful, marks a life
transition that one has weathered or worked through, which
may foster feelings of personal strength or growth.’’ (p. 9)
Despite these strong ties to Erikson’s work and the
broader literature on stress-related growth or SRG, theory
and research on sexual minority identity has yet to system-
atically study growth experiences associated with develop-
mental or minority stress (Bonet et al. 2007). Although
authors studying sexual minority issues frequently reference
Erikson’s work (e.g., Anderson 1998; deMonteflores and
Schultz 1978) and many others highlight the need for more
strengths-based/growth-focused research (Boxer and Cohler
1989; Herdt 1989; Lasser and Tharinger 2003; Moradi et al.
2009; Savin-Williams 1990,2008), the sexual minority lit-
erature has largely remained focused on negative psycho-
logical and social outcomes (Bonet et al. 2007; Riggle et al.
2008; Savin-Williams 2001), virtually ignoring the growing
body of theory, measures, and empirical data on positive
psychological experiences such as SRG (Seligman 2002).
In one of the few qualitative studies that have explicitly
focused on experiences of growth within sexual minority
experiences, Berger (1990) found that nearly two-thirds
(63%) of the lesbian and gay participants in his study
reported growth associated with the sexual identity devel-
opment process. Initial qualitative research on sexual
minority identity development has provided substantial
evidence that sexual minorities perceive the process of
disclosing to others as producing SRG (e.g., LaSala 2000;
Monroe 2001; Oswald 2000; Savin-Williams 2001). These
studies have been particularly fruitful in documenting
experiences of ‘‘coming out growth’’ (COG), providing
sexual minorities the opportunity to describe in their own
words how coming out has led to gains and losses in their
lives as part of the larger goal of understanding the role of
disclosure within the process of sexual minority identity
development.
Potential Domains of COG
The links between outness and mental health or resilience
have been broadly reported in the literature, with several
dozen quantitative (almost entirely correlational) studies
reporting similar results. Individuals who are more out
typically report less stress, and fewer symptoms of
depression or anxiety (Jordan and Deluty 1998; Lewis et al.
2001; Mohr and Fassinger 2003), with many individuals
directly attributing these reductions in distress to coming
out to others (D’Augelli 1991; LaSala 2000; Stevens 2004;
Vargo 1998). Other studies have linked greater outness with
psychological well-being and improved quality of life
(Halpin and Allen 2004; LaSala 2000; Monroe 2001; Savin-
Williams 2001), as well as greater positive affect (Halpin
and Allen 2004; Jordan and Deluty 1998; Monroe 2001;
Vargo 1988). High self-esteem and greater outness have
additionally been linked (Halpin and Allen 2004; Monroe
2001; Savin-Williams 2001). Increases in strength/courage
have also been associated with greater outness (Evans and
Broido 1999; Monroe 2001; Stevens 2004), and some
studies have reported that coming out leads to perceived
improvements in social skills (Coleman 1981/1982; Savin-
Williams 2001). Although not explicitly framed as SRG,
data from these studies clearly demonstrate subjective
experiences of growth associated with coming out to others,
providing substantive evidence of the existence of COG and
providing important clues to the nature of these experi-
ences. Across roughly two dozen such investigations,
there has been consistency in the experiences of COG
described by sexual minority participants, reflecting five
domains: honesty/authenticity; personal/social identity;
mental health/ resilience; social/relational; and advocacy/
generativity (Vaughan 2007). Similar conceptualizations of
the positive aspects of being gay or lesbian have been
independently found within a recent qualitative study by
Riggle et al. (2008).
Perceived gains in honesty and authenticity, as a result
of coming out, represent the first domain of COG identified
in this literature. Discussed both in major theories of
identity development (Cass 1979; Lee 1977; Troiden 1979)
and qualitative studies (e.g., LaSala 2000; Lasser and
Tharinger 2003; Savin-Williams 2001; Stevens 2004), the
connection between disclosure and feeling more real and
true to one’s self has received broad support. These find-
ings are consistent with earlier work on self-disclosure,
which has associated the sharing of personal information
with a sense of congruence between one’s personal and
social selves (Jourard 1968,1971). With respect to the
second domain of personal/social identity growth, greater
outness repeatedly has been correlated with a strong,
positive, and/or integrated sexual minority identity (e.g.,
Miranda and Storms 1989; Mohr and Fassinger 2000;
Coming Out Growth 95
123
Rosario et al. 2001). Sexual minority individuals have also
directly reported that coming out has helped them to
strengthen and transform their personal and social identi-
ties in positive ways (e.g., Morris 1997; Oswald 2000;
Savin-Williams 2001; Stevens 2004). Other researchers
have indicated that coming out has promoted greater
internal acceptance and validation of their sexual minority
identities (e.g., Rosario et al. 2001; Savin-Williams 2001;
Troiden 1993). Strengthening of one’s social identity as a
sexual minority has also been associated with greater
involvement in and attachment to the LGBT community
(Bonet et al. 2007; Morris et al. 2001; Rosario et al. 2001;
Savin-Williams 2001; Stevens 2004).
Coming out to others has also been associated with
beneficial changes in perceived mental health and well-
being (Berzon 1979), including reductions in anxiety and
increases in self-esteem (LaSala 2000; Monroe 2001;
Savin-Williams 2001; Vargo 1998). Gains in subjective
well-being and life satisfaction have also been widely
reported (LaSala 2000; Savin-Williams 2001; Vargo 1998),
including descriptions of emotional relief and liberation
(Monroe 2001). Sexual minorities have also identified
increases in coping resources and resilience as a result of
coming out (Monroe 2001; Rhoads 1995), including gains
in courage, strength and reductions in use of drugs/alcohol
as a coping mechanism (Monroe 2001).
Social and relational gains, the fourth domain, have also
been linked to greater outness, as individuals who are more
out typically report higher levels of perceived social sup-
port (Oswald 2000; Savin-Williams 2001; Stevens 2004).
Consistent with this finding, sexual minorities have
described coming out as both increasing their access to
potential sexual and/or romantic partners (Morris 1997;
Savin-Williams 2001; Troiden 1993) and supporting the
development of stronger/closer relationships with friends,
family, and/or one’s partner (LaSala 2000; Lewis et al.
2001; Monroe 2001). For others, growth experiences from
coming out took the form of increased assertiveness in
setting healthier boundaries or withdrawing from unhealthy
relationships (LaSala 2000; Lee 1977; Monroe 2001). As
the fifth domain of COG, coming out to others can lead to
positive shifts in how LGBT individuals perceive other
sexual minorities and their contributions to society (Franke
and Leary 1991; Stevens 2004). Externally, these shifts in
attitudes lead to a greater interest in the role of advocate,
working to change sexual prejudice on an individual and
community level (Evans and Broido 1999; Monroe 2001),
or finding ways to mentor or otherwise support other sexual
minorities (Bonet et al. 2007). Despite the methodological
differences between these studies, this body of empirical
literature and several theoretical models of lesbian and gay
identity development (e.g., Cass 1979; Coleman 1981/
1982; Lee 1977; Troiden 1979) collectively describe
experiences of COG in the five broad domains of honesty/
authenticity, personal/social Identity; mental health/resil-
ience; social/relational; and advocacy/generativity.
Shortcomings and Opportunities in the Study of COG
Unfortunately, these five domains of COG have yet to
receive in-depth empirical attention within either the lit-
erature on sexual minority identity development or the
broader literature on SRG. Although providing rich
descriptions of COG and correlational data supporting the
link between outness and psychological gains, the identity
development literature has not yet systematically studied
these experiences using methods comparable to those
found in the positive psychology literature (e.g., stan-
dardized measures of SRG developed or validated for a
given population). Although it has been noted that ‘‘SRG
may be a particularly salient construct when used to
explore inherent characteristics such as sexual orientation’’
(Bonet et al. 2007, p. 12), serious questions have also been
raised regarding the applicability of existing measures of
SRG to the study of growth associated with the sexual
minority experience. These concerns are especially rele-
vant to the study of COG, as existing measures of SRG
(e.g., stress-related growth scale: Park et al. 1996; Post-
Traumatic Growth Inventory: Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996)
fail to fully represent the breadth of growth experiences
identified in the qualitative literature on COG (e.g., gains in
honesty/authenticity, personal/social identity). These defi-
cits have led several authors (Bonet et al. 2007; Park and
Lechner 2006) to note the inadequacy of current measures
of SRG to assess experiences such as COG, and call for the
development and validation of ‘‘a scale that more closely
taps into the positive experiences associated with coming
to terms with one’s sexual identity’’ (Bonet et al. 2007,p.12).
Statement of the Problem
The present investigation sought to advance the under-
standing of COG through the development and validation
of a measure specifically designed for this purpose. This
measure was developed to explore the nature of COG,
including the dimensional structure of experiences of
growth, and the relationship between COG and relevant
constructs within the SRG and sexual minority develop-
ment literature. Consistent with major findings in both
bodies of literature, it was anticipated that COG would
demonstrate a multidimensional structure that captures
experiences within each of the five identified domains of
COG (Vaughan 2007). As experiences of COG reflected a
specific type of SRG, it was also anticipated that COG
would mirror SRG with respect to relationships with other
characteristics and perceptions (e.g., positive associations
96 M. D. Vaughan, C. A. Waehler
123
with dispositional optimism, perceived stress, higher levels
of COG among lesbian women) and identity development
characteristics (e.g., positive relationships with outness,
and more advanced stage/phase of identity development).
Methods
Development of the Coming Out Growth Scale
Given the absence of a measure specifically designed to
assess experiences of COG and concerns raised about the
breadth of existing measures to assess growth from diverse
types of stress (Bonet et al. 2007; Park and Lechner 2006),
it was necessary to develop a measure of COG rooted in the
contributions of the sexual minority identity development
literature that would serve as a tool to explore questions
about the nature and function of COG. Following recom-
mendations of experts in scale design (Clark and Watson
1995; DeVellis 2003; Haynes et al. 1995; Worthington and
Whittaker 2006), a pool of 126 potential COG items were
developed to reflect each of the five core domains of COG.
An iterative process of creating, reviewing and editing was
employed to develop items for the coming out growth scale
(COGS), and items were evaluated based on both their
conceptual fit and psychometric properties. Based on rater
comments, the first author revised and condensed redun-
dant statements, producing a pool of 67 items, roughly
double the number needed for a 30–40-item scale that was
expected to reflect the five domains (Allen and Yen 1979/
1992; Crocker and Algina 1986; DeVellis 2003). All items
were worded in the positive direction, given that recent
evidence has demonstrated that negatively worded items
reflecting loss reflect experiences that are conceptually and
empirically distinct from SRG (Joseph et al. 2005).
A second group of expert raters rated items on rele-
vance, representativeness, and clarity/conciseness (DeV-
ellis 2003; Haynes et al. 1995) and were invited to
provide feedback and suggestions regarding wording,
redundancy or missing, and redundant items (Allen and
Yen 1979/1992; Clark and Watson 1995; Crocker and
Algina 1986; DeVellis 2003; Kahn 2006; Worthington
and Whittaker 2006). Each of the five COG domains was
presented in counterbalanced order to the expert raters.
Items that received an average rating of less than a 4.0
out of 5.0 on any of the three scales (relevance, repre-
sentativeness, and clarity/conciseness), as well as items
that were evaluated as otherwise problematic or redun-
dant, were reviewed. Final decisions about COGS items
were made by consensus between the second team of
experts and the researcher, rooting final decisions in the
extant theory and research on the coming out process and
considering suggestions for rewriting or adding additional
items. The resulting 36-item measure consisted of: six
honesty/authenticity growth items; six identity growth
items; seven items reflecting gains in mental health/
resilience; nine relational/social growth items; and eight
items reflecting gains in advocacy/generativity, all arran-
ged in random order (See Appendix 1).
Additional Instruments
The Outness Inventory (OI: Mohr and Fassinger 2000) was
used to measure the degree to which an individual’s
minority sexual orientation is known by others. The OI is a
10 item, 7 point Likert-type scale of outness across 10
social roles. Scores range from 10 (not out at all) to 70
(totally out across multiple domains). OI scores may be
calculated for any of the three subscales, or used as an
overall index of global outness by calculating the mean of
the three subscales. Evidence for both the reliability (Bal-
sam and Szymanski 2005; Goodman et al. 2005; Todosij-
evic et al. 2005) and validity of this scale has been
provided elsewhere (Goodman et al. 2005; Mohr and
Fassinger 2000,2003). The alpha for global OI score in this
study was .72. The OI was selected for use in this study in
order to explore the link between overall outness and levels
of growth and has been widely used as an index of dis-
closure in LG populations.
Stress-Related Growth Scale-Short Version (SRGS-S:
Park et al. 1996) was used to assess overall SRG associated
with coming out to others, serving as a comparison tool
with the COGS. The SRGS-S is a 15-item, 3 point Likert-
type measure of stress-related growth that was adapted
from the original 50-item SRGS (Park et al. 1996), with
scores ranging from 0 to 30. The SRGS has been widely
used within the literature on SRG as a measure of growth
from a broad variety of stressful life events, including
stress related to lesbian and bisexual identity development
(Bonet et al. 2007). Evidence for both the reliability (Bonet
et al. 2007; Frazier et al. 2004; Park 2005; Park et al. 1996)
and validity (Park et al. 1996) of the measure has been
provided elsewhere within the stress and coping literature.
Within the present study, the internal consistency reliabil-
ity for the SRGS-R was .96. Consistent with Bonet et al.
2007, directions for the SRGS-S were modified to instruct
participants to respond to items with respect to the process
of coming out (disclosing their identity) to others.
The Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R, Scheier
et al. 1994) is a 10-item, 4-point Likert-type scale measure
that is used to assess dispositional optimism. The LOT-R is
based on the original 12-item LOT (Scheier and Carver
1985), which defines optimism as an individual’s general-
ized expectancies for positive outcomes. The LOT has been
widely used within the literature on stress and coping,
including SRG. Six of the 10 items of the LOT-R are used
Coming Out Growth 97
123
to compute a global score of dispositional optimism, with
scores ranging from 0 to 24 (the remaining four are non-
scored filler items). Evidence for both the validity (Davis
et al. 1998; Park et al. 1996; Scheier et al. 1994; Tedeschi
and Calhoun 1996) and reliability (Park et al. 1996; Scheier
et al. 1994) of the LOT/LOT-R has been well-established,
with reliabilities ranging from .82 to .87. The internal
consistency reliability for the LOT-R in the present study
was .88.
The Gay Identity Questionnaire-Revised (Fassinger
2001a) and the Lesbian Identity Questionnaire-Revised
(Fassinger 2001b) were used to assess participants’ phase/
stage of LG identity development. The GIQ-R and LIQ-R
are 40-item, 7 point-Likert-type scale measures of sexual
minority identity development based on McCarn and Fas-
singer’s 1996 model of lesbian identity development. The
LIQ and GIQ were developed specifically to assess for
developmental stage/phase as uniquely expressed in gay
men and lesbian women, and have been used repeatedly in
the sexual minority identity literature (Porter 1988; Swann
and Spivey 2004; Tomlinson and Fassinger 2003; Tozer
and Hayes 2004). The four stages/phases assessed by the
GIQ-R and LIQ are: awareness, exploration, deepening/
commitment, and internalization/synthesis. Scores can be
used to assign each participant an identity status based on
phase(s)/stage(s) in which they earn the highest score(s),
producing scores that range from 10 (low) to 70 (high) for
each phase. Alpha coefficients for the LIQ-R and GIQ-R
subscales have ranged from .47 to .88, with most in the .7
or higher range (Mohr and Fassinger 2000; Porter 1988;
Tomlinson and Fassinger 2003; Tozer and Hayes 2004).
Within the present study, alphas ranged from .76 to .91 for
the four LIQ-R subscales, and from .75 to .81 for the four
GIQ-R subscales. Validity evidence for the two scales has
been provided by several authors (McCarn and Fassinger
1996; Swann and Spivey 2004; Tozer and Hayes 2004).
The Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding-
Impression Management Scale (BIDR-IM: Paulhus 1994)
was used as a measure of socially desirable responding in
the study. The BIDR-IM is a 20-item, 7-point Likert-type
subscale designed to measure intentional, conscious efforts
to present self in a favorable way (impression manage-
ment). The BIDR-R has been widely used in the literature
on SRG to assess the relationship between growth and
socially desirable responding. Based on the recommenda-
tions of Paulhus (1994), dichotomous scoring for the
BIDR-IM was used to identify individuals who demon-
strated highly socially desirable responding. Evidence for
both the reliability (Holden et al. 2000; Paulhus 1994;
Paulhus and Reid 1991) and validity (Holden et al. 2000;
Paulhus 1984,1994) of the scale has been provided else-
where. Within the present study, the internal consistency
reliability for the BIDR-IM was .74.
Demographic Questionnaire and Additional Items
In addition to the above measures, all participants were
provided with a demographic questionnaire that included
several questions about their coming out experience,
developmental milestones, and involvement in the LGBTQ
community (Bonet et al. 2007; O’Donnell et al. 2002;
Peplau and Cochran 1981). The internal consistency reli-
ability for the three-item LGBT community involvement
scale was .82.
Data Collection
Procedure
Given that the preponderance of theory and empirical lit-
erature on COG has focused on self-identified lesbians and
gay men, the present study recruited self-identified lesbian
women and gay men who had disclosed their identities to at
least one significant person in their lives via e-mails and
posters to sexual minority social, political, and professional
organizations throughout the United States and Canada. It
was not possible to calculate the response rate for this study,
as those contacted were encouraged to forward the invita-
tion to other interested individuals or groups/organizations
who met the criteria for participation. Individuals were
informed that the study had been approved by the relevant
Institutional Research Boards and were provided contact
information for questions regarding the study. Participants
contacted via e-mail could click on a link provided within
the message to be taken directly to the study.
The survey was administered on the Internet via a secure
website to provide greater confidentiality/anonymity and
accessibility to participants and to provide a more diverse
and representative sample of individuals than traditional
research methods (Gosling et al. 2004; Murray and Fisher
2002; Skitka and Sargis 2006). Following the completion of
all other measures, participants were asked how they heard
about the study, and they were provided space to provide
additional comments/feedback about the study. Participants
were provided a debriefing page explaining the purpose of
the study and providing contact information for further
questions or feedback, and they were encouraged to share
the web address for the study with others who met
study criteria. All participants were treated in accordance
with the American Psychological Association’s ethical code
(APA 2002). The survey took approximately 25–35 min to
complete.
Participants
A total of 1,113 individuals responded to the survey, of
whom 959 (462 lesbian women, 490 gay men) met full
98 M. D. Vaughan, C. A. Waehler
123
criteria for participation in the study. Due to a technical
error, 39 participants (4.1% of the eligible LG participants)
who logged into the study during the first 26 h the study
was open were unable to complete all of the measures in
the study. Data from these participants were included in the
data set. Given the large size sample, the decision was
made to randomly split the data set (using SPSS) into two
portions. The first portion (N=418) was reserved for the
EFA and all other analyses conducted in the present
investigation (henceforth referred to as the study sample).
The remaining portion of the dataset (N=534) was
reserved for future analysis. Of the study sample of 418
participants, 219 (52.4%) were biologically male gay men,
196 (46.9%) were lesbians who were biologically female,
and three lesbian (.7%) were transgender (male-to-female)
women (see Table 1). Participants ranged in age from 17 to
95, with an average age of 35.50 (SD =13.23).The
majority of participants (84.9%) were between the ages of
20 and 54. The demographics of the study sample were
similar to that of the full sample, suggesting that the study
sample was equivalent to the full sample of LG partici-
pants. With respect to education, participants ranged from
less than high school (N=1, .2%) to doctorate/profes-
sional degree (N=70, 16.7%), with the largest number of
participants reporting completing a master’s degree
(N=112, 26.8%), a bachelor’s degree (N=104, 24.9%)
or completing some college (N=94, 22.5%). All four
major regions of the United States were represented within
the sample, with 34.2% living in the South (N=143),
28.7% (N=120) in the Midwest, 21.5% (N=90) from
the West, and 12.2% (N=51) from the Northeast. The
remaining ten participants (2.3%) lived outside of the
United States. Most participants reported living in subur-
ban (N=187, 44.7%) or urban (N=166, 39.7%) areas.
Results
Factor Analysis of the COGS
A total of 315 participants from the study sample com-
pleted the COGS. The mean global COGS score was
132.96 (SD =30.24, Range 38–180, N=315). Lesbian
women had a mean global COGS score of 130.32
(SD =27.76, N=156), and gay men had a mean score of
135.51 (SD =32.47, N=158) out of a possible 180
points. These scores indicate moderately high levels of
self-reported growth with coming out to others as lesbian
or gay (LG).
Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) with an orthogonal
(Promax) rotation was conducted on COGS data from the
315 participants who completed the measure. The KMO for
this sample was .95, exceeding the recommended mini-
mum cutoff value of .60 (Tabachnick and Fidell 2001;
Worthington and Whittaker 2006) for factor analysis. Ini-
tial communality estimates for COGS items ranged from
h
ˆ=.43 to h
ˆ=.79, ðx¼:36Þ;suggesting that the sample
size was sufficient for EFA (Worthington and Whittaker
2006). Consistent with the recommendations of Wor-
thington and Whittaker (2006), multiple methods (e.g.,
eigenvalues, Scree plot) as well as guidelines regarding the
approximation of simple structure (high loadings on only
one factor) were used to evaluate the factor structure of the
COGS and items that had a minimum rotated factor loading
of .30 (Kahn 2006) and cross-loaded at or below the .15
level (Worthington and Whittaker 2006) were considered
by the authors for retention. Factors comprised of fewer
than three items were excluded from consideration, based
on the recommendations of Tabachnick and Fidell (2001).
An iterative process was used to explore one, two, three,
four, five and six -factor solutions for the COGS and
examine the meaningfulness and interpretability of these
structures. Although several solutions provided interpret-
able solutions, only the two-factor solution met all sug-
gested recommendations within a multi-factor solution.
Two items (#30 and #35) failed to load on only one factor
and were dropped from the measure. The resulting best fit
model incorporated two-factors of COG which accounted
for 50.90% of the variance in COGS scores, with the two
factors correlating .74. Factor 1 consisted of 22 items,
including four identity items, five social/relational items,
all seven mental health/resilience items, and all six hon-
esty/authenticity items. These items reflected experiences
of intrapersonal or individualistic aspects of growth,
Table 1 Descriptive data
Study sample (N=418)
Variable NPercent
Sex
Biological women 196 46.9
Transgender women 3 .7
Biological men 219 52.4
Sexual identity
Lesbian 197 47.6
Gay 219 52.4
Race/ethnicity
African-American/Black 10 2.4
Asian/Pacific islander 8 1.9
Biracial/Multiracial 9 2.2
Caucasian/White 365 87.3
Latino/Latina 20 4.8
Native American 1 .2
Other 3 .7
Coming Out Growth 99
123
including gains in identity strength/comfort, enhancements
in existing relationships, and improved mental health and
well-being associated with coming out to others. This
factor was termed individualistic growth (IG). Scores on IG
ranged from 22 to 110, with a mean score of 82.41
(SD =19.59). Lesbian women had a mean score of 80.99
(SD =17.94, N=156), and gay men had a mean score of
83.82 (SD =21.11, N=158). The internal consistency/
reliability (alpha) for the IG scale of the COGS was .96.
Factor 2 was comprised of 12 items, including all eight
advocacy/generativity growth items and four items tapping
into gains in existing relationships (social/relational
growth). This factor was named collectivistic growth (CG),
with scores ranging from 11 to 60 and a mean of 42.99
(SD =10.55). Lesbian women had a mean score of 41.88
(SD =10.64, N=156), and gay men had a mean score of
44.06 (SD =10.40, N=158). The internal consistency
reliability (alpha) for the CG scale of the COGS was .88.
Scores on both scales were significantly correlated
(r=.75, p\.001) with 56.25% shared variance accoun-
ted for by these scores. Subsequent analyses of relevant
COGS scores include COGS-IG and COGS-CG scores, as
well as global COGS scores.
A total of 315 participants from the study sample com-
pleted the COGS. The mean global COGS score was 132.96
(SD =30.24, Range 38–180, N=315). Lesbian women
had a mean global COGS score of 130.32 (SD =27.76,
N=156), and gay men had a mean score of 135.51 (SD =
32.47, N=158) out of a possible 180 points. These scores
indicate moderately high levels of self-reported growth with
coming out to others as lesbian or gay.
Convergent and Divergent Validity of the COGS
A one-tailed t-test revealed no significant differences
between lesbian biological women and gay biological men
on any of the three COGS scales (COGS-IG: t=1.28, df =
313; COGS-CG: t=1.84, df =312; COGS-Global: t=
1.52, df =312). The relationship between overall coming
out stress and COGS scores was non-significant for COGS-
IG (r=.06), COGS-CG (r=.11) and global COGS scores
(r=.09). There were positive, significant relationships
between COGS-IG and SRGS-S scores (r=.75, p\.001),
COGS-CG and SRGS-S scores (r=.58, p\.001), and
global COGS and SRGS-S scores (r=.73, p\.001), sug-
gesting significant concurrence between these two measures
of growth.
COGS scores demonstrated expected correlations with
other constructs typically studied in the literature on growth
from stress. That is, significant, positive correlations were
found between dispositional optimism and each of the three
COGS scales (COGS-IG: r=.25, p\.001; COGS-CG:
r=.16, p\.01; COGS-global: r=.23, p\.001). Level
of COG was significantly and positively related to overall
level of outness (COGS-IG: r=.30, p\.001; COGS-CG
r=.26, p\.001; COGS-global r=.30, p\.001), and
time elapsed since beginning the coming out process
(COGS-global: r=.11, p\.05; COGS-IG: r=.13, p\
.05; COGS-CG: r=.07, p=NS). COGS scores were
generally unrelated to the tendency to engage in impression
management, with non-significant relationships found
between BIDR-IM scores and reports of individualistic
growth (r=-.06, p=NS) and overall COGS (r=-.09,
p=NS) scores. There was a significant negative relation-
ship between IM and CG (r=-.12, p\.05), indicating
that individuals who scored high on impression management
reported lower levels of CG.
With respect to the relationship between sexual minority
identity development phase and COG, scores on identity
integration/synthesis were significantly and positively
associated with both dimensions of COG, both for lesbian
women (COGS-IG scores: r=.46, p\.001; COGS-CG:
r=.35, p\.001; COGS-global COGS: r=.46, p\.001),
and gay men (COGS-IG scores: r=.43, p\.001; COGS-
CG: r=.40, p\.001; COGS-global: r=.44, p\.001).
However, there was no evidence of a relationship between
scores on the deepening/commitment phase and level of
COG, either for lesbian women (COGS-IG: r=.06,
p=NS; COGS-CG: r=.04, p=NS; global COGS scores:
r=.07, p=NS) or gay men (COGS-IG: r=.07, p=NS;
COGS-CG: r=.10, p=NS; global COGS: r=.09, p=
NS).
A number of exploratory analyses were also conducted
in order to replicate preliminary findings related to COG
from work by Bonet et al. (2007). Analyses on the rela-
tionship between demographic variables and COGS scores
found no evidence of a significant relationship between
growth and educational level (Wilks’ Lambda [10,
616] =1.25, p=NS) or race/ethnicity (Wilks’ Lambda
[2, 311] =.08, p=NS).Individuals who rated themselves
as more involved in the LGBT community reported sig-
nificantly higher levels of COG (COGS-global: r=.39,
p\.01; COGS-IG: r=.36, p\.01, COGS-CG: r=.46,
p\.01). Age at first consensual same-gender experience
was also modestly related to reports of COG, with those
who had begun to behaviorally explore their same-sex
attraction at earlier ages, reporting higher levels of indi-
vidualistic growth (COGS-IG: r=-.15, p\.01) and CG
(r=-.19, p\.01), although this relationship was not
significant for global COGS scores (r=-.08, p=NS).
Discussion
The present study focused on investigating experiences of
stress-related growth associated with coming out to others
100 M. D. Vaughan, C. A. Waehler
123
as gay or lesbian, providing significant insight into the
ways in which sexual minorities experience growth as a
result of this process. As well, the present investigation
sheds light on how these reports of growth vary as a
function of other variables widely studied within the lit-
erature on stress and coping and the literature on sexual
minority identity development.
Levels and Dimensional Structure of COG
The results of this study provided broad support for the
concept that lesbians and gay men experience high levels
of stress-related growth from coming out and that these
multidimensional experiences of growth relate in expected
ways with measures of convergent and divergent validity.
Overall levels of reported COG were substantial, with an
average item score that reflected moderately high levels
of overall growth (3.7/5.0), and comparable scores on
COGS-IG (3.72/5.0) and COGS-CG (3.50/5.0). These
scores were similar to those found by Bonet et al. (2007),
who used the SRGS-S to assess growth from the entire
sexual minority identity development process, but were
substantially higher than those typically associated with
growth from traumatic stress (e.g., Koenig et al. 1998;
Park et al. 1996). The results here strongly suggest that
the coming out process can be conducive to experiences
of stress-related growth and that sexual minority indi-
viduals often transform the experience of minority stress
into opportunities for growth.
Consistent with depiction of SRG as a multidimensional
construct (e.g., Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996), experiences
of COG were best described as falling along two dimen-
sions. The individualistic growth dimension captured per-
ceived growth in three areas related to self-perception:
authenticity/honesty, biopsychosocial well-being, and per-
sonal sexual minority identity. In contrast, the collectivistic
growth dimension reflected positive shifts in perceptions of
others and self-in-relation to others: more LGBT-affirming
views, a sense of belonging, and a collective LG identity.
Although five domains of COG were initially identified
through a review of the sexual minority literature, the two
dimensional structure found in this study incorporated
aspects of all five of these areas, splitting items from the
identity domain across the factors according to their focus
on personal or social aspects of identity. Consistent with
modern models of sexual minority identity development
which separate the process of personal and social identity
development (e.g., McCarn and Fassinger 1996), these
results suggest that the process of coming out to others
provides two overlapping categories of benefits—
improvements in how individuals perceive or experience
themselves, and improvements in how they perceive their
LGBT peers and their relationships with these peers.
COGS-global and SRGS-S scores were found to be
moderately intercorrelated (r=.58–.75), with SRGS-S
explaining only 56.25% of the variance in COGS scores,
indicating that the two measures capture related, yet dis-
tinct, experiences of growth. These results suggest that
COG cannot be simply reduced to experiences of SRG as
measured in the literature on stress and coping; rather,
COG appears to represent a unique growth process not
fully incorporated into existing measures of SRG. In con-
trast to the types of growth captured by existing measures
of SRG, the COGS attempts to capture growth experiences
not typically discussed in the SRG literature. These
reported gains reflect specific strengths associated with the
process of confronting and working through heterosexism
en route to building a positive minority identity. Within
COGS-IG scores, individuals acknowledged gains in social
skills and social comfort, a stronger personal identity, and
improvements in existing romantic relationships, consistent
with growth experiences described within major theories of
sexual minority identity development and the qualitative
literature on coming out. A similar theme emerged within
the COGS-CG, as this scale incorporated shifts in beliefs
about sexual minority individuals, greater access to
romantic/sexual partners, a newfound sense of belonging or
community, a stronger social identity, and an enhanced
commitment to advocacy, each of which have been broadly
acknowledged in the sexual minority identity development
literature. Although the SRG literature has acknowledged
gains in relationships and increased interest and involve-
ment in advocacy in response to a traumatic event, these
experiences have rarely (until now) been incorporated
into quantitative measures of SRG (Park et al. 1996;
Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996). At the same time, given the
preliminary nature of these findings, replication of the two-
factor structure within a separate sample using confirma-
tory factor analysis will be important before definitive
statements about the structure of COG can be made.
COG and Related Constructs
In this study, COGS scores were largely unrelated to
socially desirable responding, consistent with studies in the
SRG literature that have found non-significant or small,
negative correlations between these constructs (Park et al.
1996; Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996). Supporting both the
convergent and divergent validity of the COGS, scores
were positively related to, yet empirically distinct from,
dispositional optimism. The magnitude of this relationship
was consistent with those found in the SRG literature
(Linley and Joseph 2004; Park and Fenster 2004), indi-
cating that reports of COG are not wholly due to the ten-
dency to anticipate favorable outcomes or to engage in
‘yea-saying’ behavior.
Coming Out Growth 101
123
One expectation from the SRG literature that did not
receive support was that women would report higher
overall levels of COG than men (Linley and Joseph 2004).
Gender differences in SRG consistently have been linked
to specific personality traits that include emotional
expressiveness, agreeableness, and openness to new expe-
riences (e.g., Jaarsma et al. 2006; McCrae and Costa 1986;
Tashiro and Frazier 2003; Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996).
However, a recent meta-analysis (Lippa 2005) indicated
that gay men and lesbian women demonstrate fewer per-
sonality differences from their heterosexual peers and from
each other in these areas. As the claiming of a sexual
minority identity and the coming out process have long
been linked to rejection of traditional gender roles (de-
Monteflores and Schultz 1978; Troiden 1989), the fact that
the lesbian women and gay men in this study reported
similar levels of COG may indicate that gender-related
differences typically found in SRG are a function of per-
sonality differences typically associated with gender, rather
than biological sex itself.
Sexual Minority Constructs and COG
There was also substantial (although not entirely consis-
tent) evidence that greater exposure to coming out stress
led to higher levels of COG, suggesting that the relation-
ship between level of stress and level of growth may be
quite complex. Future research should explore this rela-
tionship through more sophisticated measures of stress
(e.g., centrality, threat, severity; Armeli et al. 2001) and/or
measures of minority stress specifically designed for this
population (e.g., measure of gay-related stressors; Lewis
et al. 2001). Navigating the coming out process over
multiple years may provide additional opportunities to
experience and/or recognize experiences of growth, espe-
cially as one gains a sense of competence or comfort with
one’s coping skills. The results of the present study suggest
that greater outness leads to greater growth, as individuals
who had more widely disclosed their identities, as well as
those who had been involved in the coming out process for
a longer period of time, tended to be more immersed in the
process of sexual minority identity development. Consis-
tent with these findings, individuals in later phases of
sexual minority identity development reported higher lev-
els of COG, particularly for lesbians and gay men in the
internalization/synthesis phase. Although models of LG
identity development (e.g., Cass 1996; McCarn and Fas-
singer 1996; Sophie 1985/1986) have widely referenced
experiences of growth beginning in the middle stages/
phases of this process, the present finding is consistent with
Erikson’ s (1959,1970,1982) assertion that the full ben-
efits associated with the identity crisis are only fully real-
ized within identity integration.
Involvement in the LGBT community was also found to
predict level of COG, replicating findings from Bonet et al.
(2007). As several items within the collectivistic growth
scale (#3, 5, 10, and 25) tap into perceived gains in social,
sexual, or romantic relationships with other sexual minor-
ities, it is not surprising that scores on this scale were
positively associated with overall community involvement.
However, the relationship between COG and community
involvement was also significant for the individualistic
growth scale. As involvement in the sexual minority
community has been linked to coming out both as a
facilitator of disclosure and as an outcome of greater out-
ness (Cass 1996; Coleman 1981/1982; Lee 1977; Sophie
1985/1986; Troiden 1993), there may be a bi-directional
relationship between these constructs. It is also possible
that this relationship may be conflated with certain per-
sonality characteristics (such as extraversion), which may
moderate or mediate the relationship between community
involvement and COG.
The results of the present study are also consistent with
links between integration and overall psychological
adjustment (Mohr and Fassinger 2003; Morris et al. 2001;
Rosario et al. 2001), signifying identity integration as a
powerful positive force in the lives of these sexual
minorities. However, given the small number of individu-
als in the study who scored highly on phases other than
internalization/synthesis, the statistical power of these tests
is limited and these should be replicated in future studies in
order to best determine the relationship between identity
stage/phase and experiences of COG.
Several additional analyses were conducted within this
study to ascertain whether experiences of COG may be related
to other aspects of sexual minority identity development.
Individuals who had begun to explore their sexuality
with same-sex others at earlier ages reported higher levels
of COG. These correlations were consistent with Bonet
et al. (2007), suggesting that early sexual experience may
function as a marker of an early onset of identity explo-
ration and pave the way for creating a strong sexual
minority identity that produces coming out growth later in
life. Alternatively, the relationship between sexual explo-
ration and COG may be explained by differences in per-
sonality characteristics among individuals who experience
both early exploration and coming out growth, as openness
to experience has been consistently related to SRG (Costa
and McCrea 1986; Jaarsma et al. 2006; Shakespeare-Finch
et al. 2005; Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996). Individuals high
on openness may be more able or willing to explore
unfamiliar experiences on an emotional, physical, and
psychological level, creating more opportunities to expe-
rience growth. As such, openness may serve as a mediator
of the relationship between same-sex sexual exploration
and COG, warranting further exploration.
102 M. D. Vaughan, C. A. Waehler
123
In contrast to Bonet et al.’s (2007) findings, neither
sexual minorities with greater education nor those who
were identified as racial/ethnic minorities reported higher
levels of growth associated with the process of developing
a sexual minority identity. As several authors have sug-
gested that colleges and universities may provide a more
tolerant environment to explore sexual minority identities
and connect to the sexual minority community (e.g.,
D’Augelli 1991; Evans and Broido 1999; Rhoads 1995),
these findings were unexpected. Given that the present
sample consisted largely of individuals with high levels of
education (e.g., 84.2% had at least attended college, it is
also possible that there may have been an insufficient
sample size to detect mean differences on COGS scores by
education.
The relationship between race/ethnicity and COG has
received little attention. There is evidence that disclosure is
less common among racial/ethnic minorities due to stigma
(Grov et al. 2006; Herek 2003; Rosario et al. 2004). Several
authors (e.g., Floyd and Bakeman 2006) have argued that
coming out may be less important to the development of a
healthy sexual minority identity development for racial/
ethnic minorities, possibly due to increased stigma
regarding gay and lesbian identities within many racial/
ethnic minority communities.
Limitations and Directions for Future Research
Future research on COG should seek to address the limi-
tations of the present study, as well as expand on under-
standing the nature of COG and its potential impact on the
lives of sexual minorities. As the present investigation
focused on COG within lesbian and gay populations, it will
be important that future research on this phenomenon
explore if and how other types of sexual minorities (e.g.,
bisexual and transgender individuals—Knous 2005; Ochs
1996; Rust 2000,2002) experience growth, and how these
experiences may differ with respect to the unique experi-
ences of these populations (Moradi et al. 2009). Although
the present sample was relatively large, geographically
diverse and included participants across a wide age range
(17–85), only 12% of the sample self-identified as racial/
ethnic minorities and only one-third of the participants had
less than a four-year college degree. As such, it is unknown
whether the present sample is representative of the larger
population of out LG individuals. Previous research has
indicated that samples recruited from sexual minority
organizations/groups may be more out than their peers
(Quartaro and Spier 2002), and the present sample was
heavily slanted toward individuals in the integration/syn-
thesis phase/stage of LG identity development, which may
have reduced variability in the sample and attenuated
correlations that would have otherwise been significant.
Given the cross-sectional, retrospective nature of the
present study, the results of this investigation bear repli-
cation, ideally within a longitudinal, prospective design
that would allow researchers to study how COG unfolds
over time and explore causal pathways between relevant
identity and SRG constructs (e.g., personality, perceived
stress, coping strategies, identity phase/stage, outness,
psychological well-being). More complex methods of
assessing the impact of coming out on individuals should
also be utilized in future research, including assessments of
perceived threat, severity, and/or ‘‘centrality’’ of the
stressful event (Armeli et al. 2001) as well as instruments
specifically designed to assess minority stress (e.g., the
measure of gay-related stressors: Lewis et al. 2001). The
degree to which the process of disclosing one’s identity to
others was voluntary may also serve as a mediator or
moderator of COG and should be included in future
research.
Summary and Conclusions
The results of the present investigation regarding the nature
of coming out growth revealed a host of findings that
provide evidence for a two-dimensional structure of COG,
as well as the relationship between COG and relevant LG
identity and SRG constructs. Results of this study provided
strong support for the concept that COG is a common
experience for sexual minorities. Experiences of COG as
measured by the COGS were somewhat distinct from those
typically discussed in the literature on SRG, reflecting the
unique stresses and rewards of coming out to others that
have been widely documented, but not formally studied in
the sexual minority literature. The present findings also
provided broad support for the construct of COG, in that
experiences of COG were distinct from socially desirable
responding and optimism while being substantially related
to another measure of SRG, as well as coming out stress,
identity development, and outness. Given the dearth of
research explicitly exploring the nature of COG and its
impact on the lives of sexual minorities, the results of the
present study hold significant promise in developing a
more thorough understanding of the life experiences of
sexual minorities with respect to the impact of coming to
others. By rooting this research in relevant literature on
SRG and identity development to provide a more coherent
theoretical framework for the study of COG, this initial
report on the COGS provides evidence that it is psycho-
metrically sound, multidimensional measure of growth
from coming out that can be used to advance a deeper
understanding of the strengths and potential for growth
among sexual minorities.
Coming Out Growth 103
123
We hope that the COGS and its various applications will
help promote a more in-depth understanding of the positive
effects of coming out as a sexual minority as a unique
expression of positive psychology within this population.
Given the widespread calls within the sexual minority liter-
ature to better understand sexual minority strengths, growth,
and resilience and to develop measures to assess unique
aspects of the experiences of sexual minority individuals
(e.g., Bonet et al. 2007; Moradi et al. 2009), the COGS
represents a tool that is uniquely suited to promote these
goals. As part of a larger focus on LGBT-affirming research,
the study of COG may hold particular promise in developing
a deeper understanding of how sexual minorities exhibit
resilience by successfully adapting in the face of significant
risk or adversity (Riggle et al. 2008). Given growing interest
in sexual minority stress and its relationship to health dis-
parities with respect to rates of depression, suicidality, and
substance abuse/dependence (Meyer 1995,2003), it is
important to explore how experiences of COG may serve as a
protective factor in coping with subsequent experiences of
minority stress, potentially reducing or eliminating the
negative effects of such stresses on mental health.
APPENDIX 1
Directions: Based on your own experiences of sharing your
lesbian or gay identity (‘‘coming out’’) to others in your
life, please indicate how this experience has directly
impacted your life by choosing the response that best
describes your experience.
As a result of coming out to others.
Coming out growth scale (COGS: Vaughan 2007)
12345
Not at all/not applicable A little bit Moderately Quite a bit A lot
1. I am more satisfied with the amount of social support
I have in my life. (IG)
2. I have come to see other lesbian/gay people in a more
positive light. (CG)
3. I have greater access to potential romantic partner(s).
(CG)
4. I feel less pressure to be dishonest about who I am
attracted to/dating. (IG)
5. I feel like I ‘‘fit in’’ better with other lesbian and gay
(LG) people. (CG)
6. I am more aware of the contributions gay/lesbian
people have made to society. (CG)
7. I stand up for myself more within my relationships.
(IG)
8. I am more comfortable with being lesbian/gay. (IG)
9. I have greater access to potential sexual partner(s).
(CG)
10. I feel less pressure to dress or act according to gender
stereotypes. (CG)
11. I have challenged others’ stereotypes about lesbian/
gay people. (CG)
12. I have experienced positive changes in my relation-
ship(s) with my partner(s). (IG)
13. I became more interested in social/political issues
affecting lesbian/gay people. (CG)
14. I am more aware of negative treatment of lesbian/gay
people in society. (CG)
15. I have more happiness and/or joy in my life. (IG)
16. My lesbian/gay identity feels like a more important
part of who I am. (IG)
17. I have experienced positive changes in my relation-
ships with straight people. (IG)
18. I feel more complete or whole as a person. (IG)
19. I began to question ‘‘traditional’’ heterosexual values
and norms. (CG)
20. I feel more comfortable interacting with other people.
(IG)
21. I believe I cope better with stress related to my
lesbian/gay identity. (IG)
22. My self-confidence has increased. (IG)
23. Overall, my life feels less stressful. (IG)
24. I have become more involved in activities or
organizations focused on lesbian/gay issues. (CG)
25. I have become a stronger/more courageous person.
(IG)
26. I feel less pressure to be dishonest about my lesbian/
gay identity with others. (IG)
27. My lesbian/gay identity feels more real/valid to me.
(IG)
28. I respect myself more. (IG)
29. I have a stronger lesbian/gay identity. (–)
30. I have become more honest with important people in
my life. (IG)
31. I am more free to be myself. (IG)
32. I have challenged my own stereotypes about lesbian/
gay people. (CG)
33. I feel more genuine or authentic as a person. (IG)
34. I have experienced positive changes in my relation-
ships with other lesbian/gay people. (–)
35. I am more comfortable discussing my lesbian/gay
identity with others. (IG)
See Table 1
APPENDIX 2
See Tables 2and 3
104 M. D. Vaughan, C. A. Waehler
123
Table 2 Initial communality
estimates for COGS EFA COGS item Communality
1. Satisfaction with social support .47
2. See other LG people in a more positive light .56
3. Greater access to romantic partner(s) .74
4. Less pressure to be dishonest about attractions/dating .60
5. Feel like I ‘‘fit in’’ with LG people .64
6. More aware of contributions of LG people .59
7. Stand up for self more in relationships .53
8. More comfortable being LG .65
9. Make better choices about health behaviors .47
10. Greater access to sexual partner(s) .72
11. Less pressure to adhere to gender stereotypes .44
12. Challenged others’ LG stereotypes .44
13. Positive changes relationship(s) with partner(s) .42
14. More interested in LG social/political issues .64
15. More aware of negative treatment of LG people .58
16. More happiness and/or joy .73
17. LG identity is a more important part of me .58
18. Positive changes in relationships with straight people .59
19. Feel more complete/whole .78
20. Question ‘‘traditional’’ heterosexual values/norms .48
21. More comfortable interacting with others .68
22. Cope better with LG identity stress .68
23. Self-confidence increased .71
24. Life less stressful .61
25. More involved in LG activities/organizations .52
26. Stronger/more courageous .67
27. Less pressure to be dishonest about LG identity .68
28. LG identity feels more real/valid .70
29. Respect myself more .75
30. Stronger lesbian/gay identity .70
31. More honest with important people .66
32. More free to be myself .71
33. Challenged my own LG stereotypes .64
34. More genuine or authentic .79
35: Positive changes in relationships with LG people .73
36: More comfortable discussing LG identity .71
Table 3 Intercorrelations among COGS scores and key study variables
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
a
1. COGS-global
2. COGS-IG .97**
3. COGS-CG .89** .75**
4. Overall stress .09 .06 .11
5. Greatest
stress
.12* .12* .11 .56**
6. SRGS-S .73** .75** .58** .08 .12*
7. LOT-R .23** .30** .26** .07 .03 .11
Coming Out Growth 105
123
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Table 3 continued
Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
8. LIQ-R–D/C .07 .06 .04 .09 -.04 .18** -.01 –
9. LIQ-R–I/S .46** .46** .35** -.23** -.12 .24** .12 .20* –
10. GIQ-R–D/C .09 .07 .10 .14** .10* .20** -.08 –
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
b
11. GIQ-R–I/S .43** .43** .40** .05 .08 .32** .17**
12. OI .30** .30** .26** -.07 .05 .18* .12* -.25** .28** -.24**
13. BIDR-IM -.09 -.06 -.12* -.02 -.12* -.04 .13* -.11 -.01 -.02
14. Involvement .39** .36** .46** .03 .02 .23** .19** -.06 .27** .08
15. Age .05 .08 .02 -.09** -.18** .01 .24** -.28** .10* -.14
16. Sexual exp. -.08 -.15** -.19** -.02 -.04 -.06 -.08 .00 .15* -.05
17. Years out .11* .13* .07 -.17** -.16** -.01 .16** -.37** .23** -.23**
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
b
12. OI .12
13. BIDR-IM .08 -.09 –
14. Involvement .30** .26** -.06 –
15. Age .01 .25** .14* .11*
16. Sexual exp. .07 -.02 .23** -.14** .23** –
17. Years out .01 .28** .05 .14** .76** .10
Note Valid Nlistwise =154
(a): Overall stress: overall coming out stress; Greatest stress: stress from most stressful coming out experience.* p\.05; ** p\.01
(b): Involvement: LGBT community involvement; Sexual exp.: age at first consensual same-sex sexual experience. * p\.05; ** p\.01
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... Empowering SGMs to come out in whatever way they find most comfortable and safe may be a powerful method of decreasing pressure on SGMs. This pressure also likely decreases naturally the more that SGMs come out to others (Vaughan and Waehler 2010). Taken together, SGMs may benefit from preparing for what coming out conversations may look like, and from allowing themselves to come out in whatever way feels best for them. ...
... Similarly, validating the relationship was reported as a beneficial factor when done by individuals who SGMs come out to. This parallelism suggests that vocalizing how relationships will not be adversely affected by SGMs' coming out can help alleviate SGMs' coming out concerns in addition to strengthen relationships (e.g., Legate et al. 2012;Vaughan and Waehler 2010). ...
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Background Coming out conversations are pivotal and stressful experiences for sexual and gender minorities (SGMs). Coming out can lead to more affirmation, safety, confidence, and improved relationships. However, adverse coming out experiences can lead to damaged relationships and ostracization, which may be more likely in conservative religious contexts.PurposeThe purpose of the current study was to explore what leads to positive coming out experiences for SGM members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.MethodA sample of 25 current or former Latter-day Saint (LDS) SGMs participated in semi-structured interviews, which were analyzed using thematic analysis.ResultsParticipants reported five actions they did that contributed to a beneficial coming out experience: being selective, increasing self-understanding and acceptance, preparing before, decreasing pressure on self, and validating the relationship with the person they came out to. Participants further reported six responses from others that contributed to a beneficial coming out experience: showing loving acceptance, utilizing empathic listening skills, offering and expressing support, celebrating, affirming that the relationship is not changed, and advocating.Conclusions and ImplicationsThe present study extends current knowledge on coming out experiences by demonstrating specific beneficial approaches and responses to coming out. Given participants’ lack of focus on religiousness in their reports, these findings may be applicable to both religious and nonreligious SGMs. Our findings extend current knowledge on coming out experiences by demonstrating that both SGM approaches and others’ responses are critical to creating a more positive coming out conversation. Future research is needed to understand the efficacy and effects of these coming out approaches and responses.
... This self-disclosure of one's sexual orientation and/or identity is considered dynamic and ongoing throughout one's lifetime, rather than static (Knoble & Linville, 2012). For example, levels of outness can vary within workplaces, places of worship, or among certain family members and friends, and fluctuate across the lifespan (Bowleg et al., 2008;Vaughan & Waehler, 2010). Some research has examined the differences in levels of outness between certain subgroups within the LGBTQþ community. ...
... Similarly, coming out for women of color was found to be determined by collective, familial, and religious influences rather than solely on individuals' needs or desires (Bowleg et al., 2008). Regarding the relationship to identity development, Vaughan and Waehler (2010) found that individuals with higher levels of outness are more likely to experience personal growth and understanding about their identities and are more likely to facilitate their own understanding of their identities. Given the literature so far, there is reasonable evidence to believe that levels of outness across the lifespan likely differ based on psychological and social factors that influence human development. ...
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... Positive effects of a coming out can be a positive growth, including a higher well-being and authenticity. Those individuals can develop a more positive LGB+ identity (Vaughan and Waehler, 2009). ...
... This might happen in families in which the pressure to disclose one's own sexual identity is low, in line with the predictions made in the model of sexual identity development process (Grafsky, 2018). Further, in the present study there was evidence of a personal growth not only for the person coming out but also the well-being and authenticity of family members who can develop a positive identity (Vaughan and Waehler, 2009). However, note that we were not able to include groups with very negative attitudes in the survey because they would decline participation. ...
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... Indeed, nondisclosure and active concealment of a gay identity has been associated with denying one's same-sex sexual attractions (Pachankis, 2007); negative outcomes for gay men, such as lower well-being (Sedlovskaya et al., 2013); and increases in depression and social phobia (Cohen et al., 2016). Research has also demonstrated a number of benefits connected to the coming out process, including increases in self-esteem (e.g., Vaughan & Waehler, 2010) and social support Significance of the Scholarship to the Public We show that less shame and guilt predict negative relationships between verbal disclosure (of one's gay identity) and mental health issues (depression and anxiety) among gay White men. Verbal disclosure was not related to shame, guilt, or mental health among gay Latino men, providing evidence that verbal disclosure may not be crucial for all gay individuals. ...
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... General social desirability was assessed with the psychometrically validated Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (Paulhus, 1991), Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale (Reynolds, 1982), or the Lie Scale of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire-Revised (Eysenck, Barret, & Eysenck, 1984). Additionally, four studies examined self-deceptive enhancement and/or impression management (Börner, 2016, Chapter 6;Goorin, 2011;Vaughan & Waehler, 2010;Winters, 2003) using the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding (Paulhus, 1991). Two additional studies used the Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding to examine general social desirability as well as selfdeceptive enhancement and/or impression management (Bossick, 2008;Levi & Bachar, 2019). ...
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Posttraumatic growth (PTG) has captivated the attention of clinicians and researchers over the past three decades. However, accumulating evidence suggests that individuals' self-reports of PTG may be cognitively biased. In the current systematic review and meta-analysis, we aimed to investigate the relation between cognitive biases and perceived PTG. In line with existing theory on cognitive biases that may lead to illusory perceived PTG, we examined the following cognitive biases: defensiveness, memory bias, downward comparison bias, social desirability bias, positive attention bias, and growth beliefs. Forty-seven studies met criteria for inclusion in this review and 66 separate effects were coded for meta-analyses. Results indicated that cognitive biases were related to perceived PTG, with variation by type of cognitive bias. Moderator analyses revealed that downward comparison bias, positive attention bias, and growth beliefs exhibited stronger relations with perceived PTG than did defensiveness, memory bias, and social desirability bias. Further, subgroup analyses explored effects by type of cognitive bias and characteristics of cognitive bias measurements. The current study suggests that cognitive biases may have a role in individuals' perceptions of their PTG. This contributes to theory on the origins of illusory perceptions of PTG and provides direction for improvements to the measurement of PTG and clinical approaches to PTG.
... Moreover, much of the extant research with bisexual populations has centered on deficit models and risk factors such as HIV (Rust, 2009). Although emerging LGBTQ + research has begun to shift toward positive psychology models such as stress-related growth and Coming-Out Growth (Vaughan & Rodriguez, 2014;Vaughan & Waehler, 2010), few studies exploring sexual minority groups' religious and spiritual lives have distinguished bisexual participants' experiences from other sexual minorities (Levy & Harr, 2018;Rodriguez et al., 2013). In addition, LGBTQ + spiritual/religious research often under samples bisexual populations with sample subsets ranging from 8% to 27% (Levy & Harr, 2018). ...
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Many Muslim men with same-sex sexualities experience tensions between their sexual/religious identities. However, few inquiries address how bisexual Muslim men grow and develop amidst socioreligious persecution. Therefore, the present study utilized a mixed-methods design and the Transformative Intersectional Psychology (TIP) framework to explore the spiritual resistance of 35 bisexual, Indonesian Muslim men. Participants completed online religious attitudes and experiences measures as well as open-ended questions regarding their religious/spiritual lives. Although 70% of participants reported that they felt unsupported by the Muslim community in the past year, 49% of participants described Islam in positive terms. Moreover, participants’ largely constructed their religious and spiritual experiences outside of LGBT + Muslim affirming organizations due to the pervasive LGBTQ + hostility in Indonesia. The present study helps build a stronger theoretical foundation for understanding both the positive and negative aspects of religiosity and spirituality in bisexual Muslims’ lives from a transformative and intersectional perspective.
... Second, and more broadly, the present study adds to the existing literature by demonstrating the positive impact of the coming out experience in the lives of the majority of these narrative writ ers. This is consistent with Vaughan and Waehler's (2010) multifaceted concept of Coming Out Growth Domains; although Vaughan and Waehler initially identified five growth domains, they found that these positive benefits aligned in a twofactor structure that was defined by Individualistic Growth and Collectivistic Growth. Using the growth domains construct as a foundation for a series of interviews with bisexual individuals, Brownfield et al. (2018) renamed these two domains Intrapersonal Growth and Interpersonal Growth and documented rich examples of both themes. ...
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Clothing type can have a significant impact on the way people are perceived. In this study, we were interested in the effect of business versus casual clothing on the perception of Asian American women, given various stereotypes about them. We used a between-subjects design with a sample of college students from a university in the United States. Participants saw 3 Asian American women (and 1 European American woman to distract from the nature of the study) in either business attire or casual outfits, and rated each woman on a series of descriptors based off various stereotypes of Asian American women. We used the Scale of Anti-Asian American Stereotypes to measure internal prejudice toward Asian Americans and the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory to measure sexism. The Scale of Anti-Asian American stereotypes was a significant covariate, F(4, 233) = 6.09, p < .001, ηp2 = .10. Participants rated models in business attire as less stereotypically Asian, F(1, 239) = 46.56, p < .001, ηp2 = .17, less sexualized, F(1, 239) = 12.91, p < .001, ηp2 = .05, and less invisible, F(1, 239) = 42.01, p < .001, ηp2 = .15. Our results show that stereotypes can indeed be influenced by business attire. It is important to note that future research may be oriented toward changing the attitudes of those who hold harmful stereotypes, rather than the actions (i.e., clothing choices) of the subjects of prejudice.
Chapter
Stress-related growth (SRG) is a phenomenon in which an individual experiences positive psychological changes after going through a highly stressful life event or circumstance. SRG has become a popular area of research over the last 25 years—a trend amplified by the advent of the positive psychology movement. However, much research on SRG is compromised by the use of retrospective assessments of perceived growth and cross-sectional research designs. As a result, the extent to which current research sheds lights on the nature, ubiquity, and value of SRG is unclear. We provide an overview of current research on SRG (including demographic differences and its relatedness to health outcomes) as well as its methodological limitations, and provide some guidelines for improving the scientific study of this construct.
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Research suggests that loneliness among sexual minority adults is associated with marginalization, but it is unclear which processes may underlie this relationship. This cross-sectional study examined five possibilities: stigma preoccupation, internalized homonegativity, sexual orientation concealment, social anxiety, and social inhibition. The study also examined the possible protective role of LGBTQ community involvement. Respondents were 7856 sexual minority adults aged 18–88 years from 85 countries who completed an online survey. Results of structural equation modeling indicated that marginalization was positively associated with both social and emotional loneliness, and that part of this relationship was indirect via proximal minority stress factors (especially stigma preoccupation) and, in turn, social anxiety and social inhibition. Moreover, while LGBTQ community involvement was associated with greater marginalization, it was also associated with lower levels of proximal stress and both forms of loneliness. Among those who were more involved in the LGBTQ community, the associations between marginalization and proximal stress were somewhat weaker, as were those between stigma preoccupation and social anxiety, and between social inhibition and social loneliness. In contrast, the associations between concealment and social anxiety were somewhat stronger. Model fit and patterns of association were similar after controlling for the possible confounding effect of dispositional negative affectivity, but several coefficients were lower. Findings underscore the continuing need to counter marginalization of sexual minorities, both outside and within the LGBTQ community, and suggest possible avenues for alleviating loneliness at the individual level, such as cognitive-behavioral interventions targeting stigma preoccupation and social anxiety.
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Both the sexual minority individual (SMI) and partner of the sexual minority individual (PSMI) in a mixed orientation relationship (MORE) experience stress, and stress related growth during the coming out process. However, the implications and experiences of this relationship through a dyadic perspective has yet to be explored. Using a phenomenological approach, this study examined the lived experience of the dyadic coming out process in MOREs through the theoretical lens of Meyer’s (2003 Meyer, I. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129(5), 674–697. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.129.5.674[Crossref], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®] , [Google Scholar]) minority stress model and Vaughan and Weahler’s (2010) coming out growth (COG) model. Data analysis with nine MORE dyads provided a first-hand account of how minority stress and COG flow through the dyad before, during, and after SMIs and PSMIs engaged in the coming out process. The findings confirm the applicability of minority stress and COG theories to both members of the MORE. Themes that emerged in the data include awareness, disclosure, discovery, grief, support, and reconstruction.
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In this qualitative study, researchers examined the coming out process experienced by 20 gay, lesbian, and bisexual students in the residence halls of a major research institution. The students ranged in age from 18-26 and included 10 men and 10 women. Eighteen were White, one was Asian American, and one was Latino American. Students reported how they disclosed their sexual orientation, factors influencing the process, and reactions to their disclosures. Recommendations for residence hall professionals are provided.
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Empirical studies (n = 39) that documented positive change following trauma and adversity (e.g., posttraumatic growth, stress‐related growth, perceived benefit, thriving; collectively described as adversarial growth) were reviewed. The review indicated that cognitive appraisal variables (threat, harm, and controllability), problem‐focused, acceptance and positive reinterpretation coping, optimism, religion, cognitive processing, and positive affect were consistently associated with adversarial growth. The review revealed inconsistent associations between adversarial growth, sociodemographic variables (gender, age, education, and income), and psychological distress variables (e.g., depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder). However, the evidence showed that people who reported and maintained adversarial growth over time were less distressed subsequently. Methodological limitations and recommended future directions in adversarial growth research are discussed, and the implications of adversarial growth for clinical practice are briefly considered.
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A model is proposed and explored that links the coming‐out process to the psychological functioning (i.e., self‐esteem and distress) and sexual behaviors of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths recruited from gay‐focused community‐based and college organizations in New York City. The coming‐out process is multidimensional, consisting, as defined here, of involvement in gay/lesbian activities, attitudes toward homosexuality, comfort with homosexuality, self‐disclosure of sexual identity to others, and sexual identity. The coming‐out dimensions were related to self‐esteem, distress, and unprotected sexual behaviors. In addition, the relations between the coming‐out dimensions and unprotected sexual behaviors were explained by psychological functioning. In particular, limited involvement in gay/lesbian activities was associated with more unprotected sex. Negative attitudes toward homosexuality were related directly to more unprotected sex, and they were related indirectly to more unprotected sex by means of increasing emotional distress. These and other findings have implications for designing preventive interventions to increase the youths' psychological functioning and reduce their unprotected sexual behaviors.
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In a sample of 287 heart attack victims who were interviewed 7 weeks and 8 years after their attack or who were known to have died during follow-up, interrelations among causal attributions for the attack, perceived benefits of the attack, survivor morbidity, and heart attack recurrence were explored. Analyses focused on early cognitive predictors of heart attack recurrence and 8-year morbidity and on the effects of surviving another heart attack on cognitive appraisals. Independently of sociodemographic characteristics and physicians' ratings of initial prognosis, patients who cited benefits from their misfortune 7 weeks after the first attack were less likely to have another attack and had lower levels of morbidity 8 years later. Attributing the initial attack to stress responses (e.g., worrying, nervousness) was also predictive of greater morbidity in 8-year survivors and blaming the initial attack on other people was predictive of reinfarctions. Men who survived a subsequent heart attack were more likely than men who did not have additional attacks to cite benefits and made more attributions 8 years after the initial attack. (37 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Chapter
Western mental health professionals are required to work within a framework that accommodates the essentialist thinking of their clients, while recognizing the constructed nature of the issues on which their work is based / the author's theory of lesbian and gay identity formation, described in this chapter, lies within such a framework / known as social constructionist psychology . . . , this perspective seems most able to integrate these seemingly contradictory perspectives / the theory of homosexual identity formation can be a useful tool for understanding and helping individuals in Western cultures who confront the concept of gay, lesbian, or bisexual in a personal way stages in lesbian and gay identity formation [prestage 1, stage 1—identity confusion, stage 2—identity comparison, stage 3—identity tolerance, stage 4—identity acceptance, stage 5—identity pride, stage 6—identity synthesis] / implications for counseling and psychotherapy (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Using grounded theory methodology, the experiences of 11 self-identified gay male college students were explored to understand how the environment contributed to the exploration and development of a gay identity. One central category (finding empowerment) and 5 integrative categories (self-acceptance, disclosure to others, environmental influences, individual factors, and exploring multiple identities) emerged from the research. Findings suggested that one's sexual identity is complexly integrated and often at odds with other aspects of the individual's identity.
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Analyses of the “coming out” process posit two distinct mediators of the willingness to disclose one's homosexuality to others. Whereas some analyses focus on the individual's self-acceptance of his or her sexual orientation, others implicate gays' concerns with others' reactions to such disclosures. This study tested the efficacy of these models. One hundred and eighty-four lesbians and gay men completed a questionnaire that included, among other things, two measures of openness regarding their sexual orientation. On both indices, subjects' concerns with others' evaluations predicted substantially more of the variance in openness than the degree to which they accepted their own sexuality.
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This study evaluated the dimensionality and the appraisal and coping antecedents of stress-related growth. We surveyed university alumni (N = 447) and college students (N = 472) about their most stressful event in the past two years. Participants reported appraisals of this event and their use of specific coping strategies. To assess growth from this event, we used a revised version of Park, Cohen, and Murch's (1996) Stress-Related Growth Scale (SRGS). Results from confirmatory factor analyses in both samples indicated that the revised SRGS should be regarded as a multi-dimensional instrument. Next, we used cluster analysis to identify event profiles based on appraisal and coping reports, and then compared these profiles on reports of growth. In both samples, stress-related growth was highest for individuals who reported highly stressful events, for which they had adequate coping and support resources and for which they used adaptive coping strategies.