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J Sex Res. 2011 Jan;48(1):3-15. doi: 10.1080/00224490903331067.

Different patterns of sexual identity development over time: implications for the psychological adjustment of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths.

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Department of Psychology, City University of New York-City College and Graduate Center, New York, NY 10031, USA.


Despite research documenting variability in the sexual identity development of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youths, it remains unclear whether different developmental patterns have implications for the psychological adjustment of LGB youths. This report longitudinally examines whether different patterns of LGB identity formation and integration are associated with indicators of psychological adjustment among an ethnically diverse sample of 156 LGB youths (ages 14-21) in New York City. Although differences in the timing of identity formation were not associated with psychological adjustment, greater identity integration was related to less depressive and anxious symptoms, fewer conduct problems, and higher self-esteem both cross-sectionally and longitudinally. Individual changes in identity integration over time were associated with all four aspects of psychological adjustment, even after controlling for rival hypotheses concerning family and friend support, gay-related stress, negative social relationships, and other covariates. These findings suggest that difficulties in developing an integrated LGB identity may have negative implications for the psychological adjustment of LGB youths and that efforts to reduce distress among LGB youths should address the youths' identity integration.

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