Clarifying relations between human-animal interaction (HAI) and adjustment (i.e., mental and behavioral health) in sexual and gender minority (SGM) emerging adults is critical both for understanding the role of pets in human health and development and for identifying the role of HAI in addressing health disparities.
Defined as those who do not identify as heterosexual and/or with traditional, binary genders, expressions, and/or their assigned sex at birth, SGM emerging adults are more likely to experience chronic emotional and behavioral stressors compared to their heterosexual and/or cisgender peers.
This project will examine longitudinal relations between SGM stressors, HAI, and SGM emerging adult adjustment to identify whether and to what extent HAI operates as a protective factor in this population during the transition to adulthood.
- To examine bidirectional relations between SGM stressors (i.e., victimization, rejection, discrimination, microaggressions), HAI, and emerging adult adjustment (i.e., self-esteem, personal hardiness, psychological stress, substance use),
- To examine associations between SGM stressors and emerging adult adjustment, testing HAI as a possible moderator of these relationships, and
- To examine associations between SGM stressors and adjustment, testing HAI as a possible mediator of these relationships.
Measures of HAI will be positively associated with self-esteem and personal hardiness, and negatively associated with psychological stress and substance use.
The project involves a three-wave panel study of 300 SGM emerging adults. A community sample will be recruited from two cities in the U.S. (Richmond, VA; Baltimore, MD) and followed over a 6-month period, with data collected at 3-month intervals. Researchers will test multiple cross-lagged autoregressive path models to identify unique relations between SGM stressors, HAI, and adjustment over time.
It is expected that HAI will mediate relations between minority stressors and positive adjustment (self-esteem, personal hardiness), and HAI will moderate (i.e., buffer) relations between stressors and measures of negative (substance use, psychological stress) and positive adjustment.