A Multivariate Approach to Substance Use in College Students: Exploring Dimensions of Sexual Orientation and Substance Use Related Traits and Behaviors
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Multilevel minority stressors have been associated with increased rates of substance use in sexual minority people (e.g., non-heterosexual, such as gay, lesbian, bisexual), with group specific processes underexplored in the current literature. This research attempts to provide a better understanding of the factors that influence the sexual orientation and substance use relationship, including an analysis of responses to stress and precursors to substance use, an aim which is necessary for informing any tailored intervention. The main hypothesis was that substance use relationships will differ between sexual orientation subgroups, suggesting group-specific differences to be further explored in future intervention. The participants in this study were recruited from introductory and upper-level psychology courses at Texas State (N = 1,191; Age: M = 19.57, SD = 2.36) and completed an anonymous online survey about demographic information, substance use frequency, and completed validated scales over coping responses, trait impulsivity, sexual risk-taking, and susceptibility to peer influence. Sexual orientation was measured with sexual identity and sexual attraction to produce a four-level variable of completely heterosexual, discordant heterosexual (e.g., people who identify as heterosexual though report same-sex attraction), bisexual attraction, and completely homosexual. A four-step statistical procedure found mediators that differed as a function of sexual attraction group membership and mediators fell into psychological and sexual domains. Mediators included substance use for coping, lack of perseverance, sensation seeking, risky sex acts, risky anal sex acts, and sexual risk-taking with uncommitted partners. An attraction to both sexes appeared to be linked to the greatest prevalence of use, regardless of sexual identity. Overall, the mediated effects were strongest in the discordant heterosexual group and the bisexual attraction group, and after considering both mediators and demographics, the discordant heterosexual group was most at risk for substance use. Results of the study highlight the importance of measuring sexual orientation in multiple ways. These data could be used on college campuses in student health centers for informing health educators and health education efforts to reduce high risk behavior in undergraduate students. Suggestions for group specific risk reduction and directions for further study are discussed.
CitationKlare, D. L. (2020). A multivariate approach to substance use in college students: Exploring dimensions of sexual orientation and substance use related traits and behaviors (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.