Alcohol abuse and dependence, and the constellation of problems associated with these disorders, including intimate partner violence (IPV) are a serious health concern for sexual minority women, their partners, their families, and society as a whole. Despite documentation of important health disparities, a significant gap still exists regarding why sexual minority women are more likely to experience alcohol use disorders and IPV. This application tests a model of alcohol misuse and IPV among lesbians that was developed by integrating existing lines of research in the areas of clinical, social, and health psychology. Grounded in the minority stress model (Meyer, 2003) and Hatzenbuehler's (2009) mediation framework of sexual minority stigma, this model includes sexual minority stressors stigma-related processes coping and emotional regulation, psychological and relationship distress, and drinking coping motives as potential predictors of alcohol misuse and IPV in lesbians. To test this model, 400 lesbian participants, at least 18 years old, currently in a romantic relationship with a woman will be recruited from a sexual minority consumer panel. Participants will complete 3 waves of online surveys at baseline, 6- and 12-month follow-ups. Our long-term goal is to use the results of this project to develop culturally sensitive prevention and early intervention strategies that reduce lesbians'alcohol misuse and IPV, thereby improving health and functioning in this underserved population.
Specific aims are: (1) to examine the longitudinal relationship between sexual minority stressors and subsequent alcohol use (i.e., quantity, frequency, binge drinking) and IPV. More sexual minority stress is expected to predict more alcohol use and more IPV over time;(2) to examine potential mediators of the relationship between sexual minority stressors and alcohol misuse and IPV. Four constructs will be tested as mediators: Coping/Emotional Regulation (i.e., social isolation, rumination, suppression), Stigma-Related Processes (i.e., internalized homophobia, stigma consciousness, concealment), Psychological and Relationship Distress (i.e., negative affect, relationship satisfaction, discrepant drinking, lesbian specific self-esteem) and Coping Drinking Motives. More sexual minority stress is expected to predict poorer coping and emotional regulation as well as more stigma sensitivity which in turn will predict greater psychological and relationship distress. Psychological and relationship distress is expected to predict coping drinking motives, which in turn will predict alcohol use. Psychological and relationship distress is also expected to predict IPV over time;(3) to examine the relationship among alcohol use, IPV and alcohol-related problems. More alcohol misuse is expected to predict alcohol-related problems and IPV. Alcohol-related problems are also expected to predict more IPV over time. The results of this study will add to the research literature on lesbian health by documenting significant pathways to alcohol misuse and IPV and will be one of the first studies to examine a comprehensive model of alcohol use and IPV in lesbians.
Alcohol abuse and dependence, and the constellation of problems associated with these disorders, including intimate partner violence (IPV), are a serious health concern for sexual minority women, their partners, their families, and society as a whole. This application examines individual, social, and environmental factors that predict alcohol use and IPV violence among lesbians. The results of this research can be used to develop effective prevention and intervention programs to reduce alcohol use and IPV in this vulnerable population.