Date of Award:

2015

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Renee V. Galliher

Abstract

This study examined sexual orientation change efforts, identity conflict, and psychosocial health in a sample of 1,612 same-sex attracted Mormons.

A minimum of 66% of participants reported engaging in sexual orientation change efforts, usually through multiple methods, and across more than 10 years (on average). Religious change efforts such as personal righteousness (e.g., prayer, fasting, scripture study, improved relationship with Jesus Christ) and counseling with church leaders (e.g., bishops), along with individual methods (e.g., introspection, private study, mental suppression) were found to be far more prevalent and significantly more damaging than therapist- (e.g., psychotherapy, psychiatry) or group-led change efforts. Overall, 0% of those attempting change reported an elimination of same-sex attraction, and less than 4% reported any change in sexual orientation. Conversely, the majority of participants reported these efforts to be either ineffective or damaging.

Regarding the navigation of sexual and religious identity conflict, the vast majority of participants were found to have either rejected their religious identity (53%) or compartmentalized their religious and sexual identities (37%), with significantly fewer reporting the rejection of their same-sex sexual identity (6%) or the successful integration of the two identities (4%). Overall, the (a) acceptance of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender identity and (b) “coming out” to family, friends, work, and religious associates correlated positively with quality of life and self-esteem, and negatively with internalized homophobia, identity confusion, depression, and sexual identity distress.

Regarding various religion-based approaches to same-sex attraction, the following were generally positively associated with psychosocial health (e.g., quality of life, selfesteem) and negatively correlated with psychosocial harm (e.g., internalized homophobia, sexual identity distress, depression): (a) embracing biological (vs. developmental) views on the causes of same-sex sexuality, (b) decreased LDS Church participation, (c) eschewing celibacy, and (d) pursuing committed, legal same-sex relationships. Heterosexual marriages for same-sex attracted participants were estimated to have a 69% divorce rate, with very low average quality of life ratings for those remaining in the marriages.

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Psychology Commons

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