Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Deborah L. Vietze


Sexual identity development, milestones, gay men, sexual minorities, minority stress, stigma


Social and political changes during recent decades have contributed to a more accepting environment for sexual minorities (non-heterosexual individuals) in the U.S., but recent evidence suggests that these shifts may create a “developmental collision” for younger generations (Meyer et al., 2021; Russell & Fish, 2019). Younger generations of sexual minorities “come out” and reach other sexual identity milestones earlier than older generations, and earlier timing of sexual identity development may contribute to increased vulnerability to stigma. The present study aimed to contribute to limited research on the relationship between the timing of sexual identity development milestones and well-being among three generations of gay men (N = 517). The study analyzed data from the Generations Study, a national probability survey of sexual minorities in the U.S. (Meyer et al., 2020). Participants reported the age at which they reached six sexual identity milestones and completed measures of social well-being, life satisfaction, and psychological distress. Findings indicated that reaching the gay identification milestone in adolescence (vs. adulthood) and being in the younger (vs. older) cohort predicted lower levels of social well-being and greater psychological distress. Additionally, reaching the first same-sex relationship milestone in adolescence (vs. adulthood) and being in the middle (vs. older) cohort predicted greater social well-being and life satisfaction. The timing of several milestones did not predict well-being, however. Lastly, being in the younger cohort versus the older cohort was associated with greater psychological distress. These findings suggest that the timing of sexual minority identity development only modestly affects future well-being.



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