Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Effects of Simultaneous Developmental Processes: Factors Relating to the Career Development of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

The Effects of Simultaneous Developmental Processes: Factors Relating to the Career Development of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth

Article excerpt

C. Hetherington (1991) hypothesized that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adolescents may experience a "bottleneck effect" in career development because of internal psychological energy focusing on issues surrounding sexual identity. This assertion has not yet been tested, however, in the career development literature. The authors examined the relationship between variables indicative of psychological resources being devoted to managing an LGB identity, social support, and career development. Survey data from 102 LGB youth demonstrated that inner sexual identity conflict and social support predicted unique and shared variance in career maturity and vocational indecision, lending empirical support to the bottleneck hypothesis.

Recently, there has been a call from counseling professionals to shift lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) issues away from the margins in an effort to counteract the dominant heterosexist discourse in the field (Croteau, Lark, Lidderdale, & Chung, 2005), which extends to career research, theory, and counseling. Although the development of LGB individuals has received increased attention from researchers and theorists in recent years (Chung, 2003; Phillips, Ingram, Grant Smith, & Mindes, 2003), this area of research is still considered to be in its infancy (Croteau, Anderson, Distefano, & Kampa-Kokesch, 2000; Croteau, Lark, & Lance, 2005) and even fewer studies have focused on LGB career development (Pope, 1995). Much of what has been published in the career literature focuses on the possibility that the developmental trajectory of LGB individuals is different from that of their heterosexual peers as a result of the stigmatization and social marginalisation experienced by this group (Morrow, 1997). Studies of the career development of LGB individuals during adolescence, when identity in many realms is most actively forming (Erikson, 1968), are even scarcer. The paucity of research in this area may be indicative of the difficulty in understanding developmental processes of LGB youth, because scholars must integrate previously theorized career development issues within the context of the stigmatization and social marginalization often experienced by LGB individuals (Morrow, 1997; Pope, 2000). This study seeks to contribute to the career development literature on LGB youth by incorporating such theoretical and multicultural knowledge. Specifically, we examined the relationship between variables related to LGB adolescents' sexual identity and career development processes, as well as the contribution of social support to this association.

Sexual Identity Development

Many authors have theorized that LGB individuals must negotiate their overall identities in ways that are unique to their own cultural group because the stigma of being LGB may affect their development (Cass, 1979; McCarn & Fassinger, 1996; Troiden, 1988). For LGB individuals, sexual identity development involves identifying, defining, and accepting their sexual orientation within the context of a heterosexist and homophobic society. LGB adolescents going through this developmental process may be faced with an awareness of feelings that is not congruent with the heterosexual majority. Although many studies have found that most LGB individuals realize their same-sex attractions during adolescence, it has also been noted that the stigma attached to same-sex desire is most pronounced at this developmental stage (D'Augelli, 1996; Nesmith, Burton, & Cosgrove, 1999; Waldner & Magruder, 1999). This paradoxical relationship may result in the confluence of intense intrapersonal and social conflict for LGB youth.

According to stage models of sexual identity development, early stages can be fraught with confusion, inner turmoil, and feelings of personal alienation (Cass, 1979, 1984; McCarn & Fassinger, 1996; Troiden, 1988). Variables associated with the initial concerns of sexual identity development, such as internalized homonegativity, identity confusion, and perceptions of sexual identity development as a difficult process, have been identified as ways to measure the internal conflict regarding sexual identity, or the extent of psychological resources that are devoted to the sexual identity development process (Mohr & Fassinger, 2000). …

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