Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 872–889 | Cite as

Trajectories of Internalized Heterosexism among Young Men Who have Sex with Men

  • Jae A. Puckett
  • Brian A. Feinstein
  • Michael E. Newcomb
  • Brian Mustanski
Empirical Research


Minority stress, or the unique stressors encountered by sexual minorities, has a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of this population. One minority stressor, internalized heterosexism, refers to incorporating stigma against sexual minorities into one’s self-concept as a product of social bias. This minority stressor has been consistently related to worse mental health in sexual minorities. We evaluated experiences of internalized heterosexism longitudinally, over 24 months, in a sample of 450 young men who have sex with men (YMSM; age range = 16–20 years old at baseline). Latent class growth analyses revealed three classes: individuals with low-decreasing internalized heterosexism (57.1%), medium-stable internalized heterosexism (37.3%), and high-stable internalized heterosexism (5.6%). Multinomial logistic regression analyses revealed that some racial/ethnic minorities, non-gay identified individuals (i.e., bisexual/other), and individuals with less femininity and greater masculinity were significantly more likely to be in the medium- and high-stable internalized heterosexism classes. Higher victimization, as well as lower gay/bisexual community involvement, peer support, and outness predicted membership in the medium-stable internalized heterosexism class (relative to the low-decreasing class). Further, higher past 6-month victimization and lower outness were also predictive of high-stable internalized heterosexism class membership (relative to the low-decreasing class). These findings reveal that there is not a single trajectory of internalized heterosexism—the degree to which it changes differs across men and depends on demographic characteristics and interpersonal experiences. Furthermore, the results indicate interpersonal targets for future work aimed at promoting positive identity development and decreased internalized heterosexism for sexual minority youth.


Internalized heterosexism Social support Gay Bisexual Minority stress Victimization 



The authors would like to acknowledge Robert Garofalo for his contributions to the study from which these data were collected.


The project described herein was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse: R01DA025548 (PIs: R. Garofalo, B. Mustanski) and U01DA036939 (PI: B. Mustankski). Brian A. Feinstein’s time was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1F32DA042708-01).

Author Contributions

All authors contributed to conceiving the manuscript: B.F. performed the statistical analyses; B.M. was responsible for study conceptualization and oversight of data collection. All authors were responsible for article preparation and have read and approved the final manuscript.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.This study received IRB approval from Northwestern University and University of Illinois Chicago.

Informed Consent

All participants provided their consent/assent to participate in the study. A waiver of parental permission was granted under 45 CFR 46.408(c).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jae A. Puckett
    • 1
  • Brian A. Feinstein
    • 2
    • 3
  • Michael E. Newcomb
    • 2
    • 3
  • Brian Mustanski
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of South DakotaVermillionUSA
  2. 2.Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Northwestern University Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and WellbeingChicagoUSA

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