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How does religious centrality affect Latinx sexual minority youths’ identity development and self-esteem?

Fri, March 22, 7:45 to 9:15am, Baltimore Convention Center, Floor: Level 1, Exhibit Hall B

Integrative Statement

The purpose of this study is to understand the role that religious centrality plays in the lives of Latinx sexual minority youth (SMY). Few studies acknowledge the intersections between sexuality and ethnicity (Toomey et al., 2016), and research focused on the intersections among religion, sexuality, and ethnicity-- particularly among Latinx SMY-- is even more scarce. Generally, religion acts as protective factor for adolescents (e.g., religiosity is associated with higher self-esteem; Yonker et al., 2012); yet, this association may be attenuated or more complex for SMY due to religious beliefs that non-heterosexuality is immoral or punishable (Gibbs & Goldbach, 2015). Family and religious systems tend to overlap, and religion likely influences the familial relationship quality experienced by Latinx SMY (Etengoff & Daiute, 2014). Guided by positive youth development theories (Lerner, 2017) and an intersectional lens (Crenshaw, 1989), this study examined the associations between youths’ self-esteem, their own religious centrality, the religious centrality of their families, and their sexual orientation (SO) and ethnic identity (EI) developmental processes.

Data from a larger study on the experiences of Latinx SMY in the U.S. was analyzed (N = 385); listwise deletion was utilized in this study. Participant's age ranged from 14 to 24 (M = 20.26, SD = 2.62); 67.3% of participants identified as Mexican, Mexican-American, or Chicanx. Youth’s sexual orientation was reported as 65% gay, 19% lesbian, 7.3 bisexual, and 7.5% queer; their gender identity was 73.2% cisgender male, 19% cisgender female, and 7% identified as transgender. We used existing measures to assess participant’s SO affirmation and resolution (Toomey et al., 2016); EI affirmation and resolution (Douglass & Umaña-Taylor, 2015); self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1965); and finally, religious centrality for both the participant and their family (Cotton et al., 2012).

Low rates of religious affiliation were found among Latinx SMY (21%) and their families (34%); further, 51.4% were in families where neither the youth nor the family was affiliated, 17.1% where both were affiliated with the same religion, 2.1% where both were affiliated but with different religions, 12.7% where only the family was affiliated, and 0.8% where only the youth was affiliated. Table 1 displays the correlations for key study variables. For affiliated youth, participants’ own religious centrality was positively associated with EI affirmation and self-esteem but not SO processes or EI resolution. Yet, for non-affiliated youth, own religious centrality was negatively associated with SO resolution, SO affirmation, and EI affirmation but not EI resolution or self-esteem. Further, family religious centrality was positively associated with SO affirmation and self-esteem for youth, regardless of their own religious affiliation. Finally, among youth who were religiously affiliated, EI processes (but not SO processes) were positively associated with self-esteem, whereas among youth who were not religiously affiliated, SO processes and EI affirmation and self-esteem were positively correlated. Findings suggest that it is critical to understand how religious and family systems interact with identity development to inform self-esteem among Latinx SMY. Limitations and future directions will be discussed, as well as additional multivariate analyses.


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