Promoting intergroup contact through the timing of disclosure of a sexual minority status

Sharon Dane (2011). Promoting intergroup contact through the timing of disclosure of a sexual minority status PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Sharon Dane
Thesis Title Promoting intergroup contact through the timing of disclosure of a sexual minority status
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-03
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Barbara Masser
Associate Professor Julie Duck
Total pages 256
Total colour pages 2
Total black and white pages 254
Subjects 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Abstract/Summary Prior research has established that positive contact between members of different social groups can improve intergroup attitudes, particularly when such contact occurs in the form of cross-group friendships (e.g., Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). In the case of a concealable outgroup status, such as a same-sex sexual orientation, the benefits associated with intergroup contact cannot even begin to take effect until the concealed status becomes apparent to members of the relevant outgroup. The current program of research aimed to address a gap in the contact literature in relation to concealable group memberships, by investigating the effects of the timing of disclosure of an individual’s sexual minority status on the contact experience. The first paradigm of this research examined heterosexual individuals’ reactions to the timing of disclosure of a person’s nonheterosexuality under conditions of contact (Study 1a) and anticipated contact (Studies 2-3) conducive to forming cross-group friendships. All three experiments involved modified versions of the Relationship Closeness Induction Task (RCIT; Sedikides,Campbell, Reeder, & Elliot, 1998), in which participants experienced a nonheterosexual confederate of their own sex disclose his or her sexual orientation (i.e., mention the gender of a dating partner) before or after becoming better acquainted. Results from all three experiments reveal a significant benefit for upfront disclosure over delayed. Those experiencing early disclosure, rather than later, sat closer to the nonheterosexual individual (Study 1a), were less drawn to discussion topics of lower intimacy (Study 2) and liked him or her more (Studies 2-3). The benefits of knowing sooner, rather than later, continued to apply even when participants were given additional time to allow for the further processing of a delayed disclosure (Study 3). Under these conditions, those exposed to early disclosure, compared with delayed, reported being happier and more excited about meeting the nonheterosexual person and were more likely to select to be alone with him or her for a face-to-face discussion. For female participants, the benefits of early disclosure also extended to there being a greater willingness to introduce the nonheterosexual female to their friends. The results from all three experiments apply to both those with and without experiences of close contact (e.g., friend or relative) with nonheterosexual individuals of their own sex. Interestingly, these more favourable reactions to early disclosure conflict with the stated preference for delayed disclosure among those without experiences of this close contact when asked to imagine contact (Study 1b). The second paradigm of this research examined the disclosure experience from the perspective of the nonheterosexual individual and the importance of positive outgroup appraisal in predicting psychological well-being among sexual minorities, beyond the role of ingroup support. Findings are based on a large national sample of same-sex attracted adults (18-82 years of age) who participated in an anonymous online survey examining several aspects of sexual minority life in Australia. The full research report (Study 4a) from this survey is presented, providing important information on the background and broad implications of this research. Analyses of a subset of this survey data (Study 4b) revealed that perceptions of acceptance from heterosexual friends, heterosexual contacts (from the wider community), mother, father, and siblings each significantly predict participants’ well-being over and above perceived support from others sharing their sexual minority status. For those “out” to friends, family and people from the wider community, acceptance from heterosexual contacts from the wider community appears to play the largest acceptance role in predicting well-being, beyond the support gained from similar others, including the support of one’s same-sex partner. To examine the effect of timing of disclosure of a person’s same-sex attractions on perceptions of acceptance from heterosexual contacts, participants were presented with three hypothetical scenarios involving a relatively low-risk casual social encounter with a presumed to be heterosexual man and woman. Findings show that a greater likelihood of “coming out” during the first-time social encounters (i.e., upfront disclosure) had a significant direct and positive effect on same-sex attracted participants’ perceptions of heterosexual contacts acceptance, even when controlling for the possibility of heightened well-being as a result of being freely open about one’s sexuality on a wider scale. In summary, the current program of research provides complementary findings, from a heterosexual and sexual minority perspective, on the apparent benefits of upfront disclosure of a person’s same-sex attractions under relatively low-risk social conditions conducive to extending one’s cross-group friendship networks. Findings in relation to improving intergroup relations between people differing in sexual orientation and their applicability to other types of concealable stigma are discussed.
Keyword intergroup contact
cross-group friendships
concealable stigma
sexual orientation
Additional Notes Colour - p.39 (47 of document)& p.41 (49 of document). Landscape - p. 192 (200 of document).

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Created: Tue, 31 May 2011, 08:05:51 EST by Ms Sharon Dane on behalf of Library - Information Access Service