Coming Out Growth: Conceptualizing and Measuring Stress-Related Growth Associated with Coming Out to Others as a Sexual Minority

Michelle D. Vaughan • Charles A. Waehler

Published online: 6 October 2009

� Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Abstract Coming out has long been depicted as a process

that is conducive to personal growth. However, LGBTQ

psychology has yet to conduct systematic, theoretically

informed research to study how individuals experience

coming out growth (COG) and the impact of such experi-

ences on the lives of sexual minorities. The present

investigation seeks to address these gaps in the literature

through an examination of stress-related growth within the

context of coming out as a sexual minority. Findings from

a preliminary investigation of COG in a sample of 418 gay

and lesbian adults are presented, including the development

and initial validation of the coming out growth scale

(COGS), and data addressing the relationship between

COG and relevant constructs found in the literature on

identity development and stress-related growth.

Keywords Stress-related growth � Lesbian women � Gay men � Identity development � Disclosure � Measure development

Introduction

The notion that disclosing one’s sexual minority identity to

others can produce experiences of growth has strong roots

within the field of psychology. Erikson’s (1959, 1970,

1982) model of identity development sets the stage for

models of sexual minority development through his focus

on developmental tasks (crises) that must be navigated

successfully in order to form a healthy personality. Erikson

argued that individuals who work through crises by

establishing a balance between the opposing forces

embedded in each stage experience specific types of per-

sonality growth. Within the context of the identity crisis

(Identity Achievement vs. Role Confusion), individuals

who successfully work through this stage develop a posi-

tive personal and social identity that is broadly shared with

others. As a consequence, individuals experience what

Erikson termed the basic strength of fidelity, reflecting a

greater internal and external trust (and trustworthiness), a

commitment to higher goals, a sense of life purpose/

direction, the establishment of more authentic relation-

ships, and gains in self-esteem, self-efficacy, health, and

inner security (Erikson 1970, 1982). These ‘‘virtues’’

(Erikson 1959) are directly linked to the process of work-

ing through stressful life tasks, and thereby reflect growth

associated with a stressful life experience, otherwise

known as stress-related growth or SRG (also termed post-

traumatic growth or perceived benefits: Affleck et al. 1987;

Park et al. 1996; Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996) that occur in

a developmental context.

Erikson’s contribution to modern models of lesbian and

gay (LG) identity development has been widely noted (e.g.,

Cass 1979/1984; Coleman 1981/1982; McCarn and Fas-

singer 1996; McDonald 1982; Sophie 1985/1986; Troiden

1979, 1989), as broadly informing the structure and content

of these models. Specifically, major authors within this

literature have agreed that sexual minority identity devel-

opment is both highly stressful (Boon and Miller 1999;

LaSala 2000) and can be growth-enhancing (Balsam 2003;

M. D. Vaughan

Department of Psychology and Neurobehavioral Sciences,

The University of Virginia Center for Addiction Research

and Education (UVA-CARE), Charlottesville, VA, USA

e-mail: mdv5n@virginia.edu

C. A. Waehler (&) Department of Psychology, The University of Akron, Akron,

OH, USA

e-mail: cwaehle@uakron.edu

123

J Adult Dev (2010) 17:94–109

DOI 10.1007/s10804-009-9084-9

Halpin and Allen 2004; Konik and Stewart 2004; Moradi

et al. 2009; Riggle et al. 2008). Others have described the

process of coming out to others as growth-enhancing and

highly important to developing an integrated identity

(Hetrick and Martin 1987; Sophie 1985/1986; Troiden

1993). It has even been suggested that such experiences of

growth may provide sexual minorities with important

strengths that can be used to effectively manage stress

related to their minority status (Brown 1989; Moradi et al.

2009). Dating back as far as the 1970s, authors have

broadly acknowledged positive psychological aspects of

the sexual minority experience, referring to ‘‘our own

special, life-affirming gay growth track’’ (Berzon 1979,

p. 12). Reflecting the influence of Erikson, these growth

experiences have been linked to the identity development

process itself. Bonet et al. (2007) summarized much of the

literature in this area by stating that ‘‘coming to terms with

one’s sexual identity, while often stressful, marks a life

transition that one has weathered or worked through, which

may foster feelings of personal strength or growth.’’ (p. 9)

Despite these strong ties to Erikson’s work and the

broader literature on stress-related growth or SRG, theory

and research on sexual minority identity has yet to system-

atically study growth experiences associated with develop-

mental or minority stress (Bonet et al. 2007). Although

authors studying sexual minority issues frequently reference

Erikson’s work (e.g., Anderson 1998; deMonteflores and

Schultz 1978) and many others highlight the need for more

strengths-based/growth-focused research (Boxer and Cohler

1989; Herdt 1989; Lasser and Tharinger 2003; Moradi et al.

2009; Savin-Williams 1990, 2008), the sexual minority lit-

erature has largely remained focused on negative psycho-

logical and social outcomes (Bonet et al. 2007; Riggle et al.

2008; Savin-Williams 2001), virtually ignoring the growing

body of theory, measures, and empirical data on positive

psychological experiences such as SRG (Seligman 2002).

In one of the few qualitative studies that have explicitly

focused on experiences of growth within sexual minority

experiences, Berger (1990) found that nearly two-thirds

(63%) of the lesbian and gay participants in his study

reported growth associated with the sexual identity devel-

opment process. Initial qualitative research on sexual

minority identity development has provided substantial

evidence that sexual minorities perceive the process of

disclosing to others as producing SRG (e.g., LaSala 2000;

Monroe 2001; Oswald 2000; Savin-Williams 2001). These

studies have been particularly fruitful in documenting

experiences of ‘‘coming out growth’’ (COG), providing

sexual minorities the opportunity to describe in their own

words how coming out has led to gains and losses in their

lives as part of the larger goal of understanding the role of

disclosure within the process of sexual minority identity

development.

Potential Domains of COG

The links between outness and mental health or resilience

have been broadly reported in the literature, with several

dozen quantitative (almost entirely correlational) studies

reporting similar results. Individuals who are more out

typically report less stress, and fewer symptoms of

depression or anxiety (Jordan and Deluty 1998; Lewis et al.

2001; Mohr and Fassinger 2003), with many individuals

directly attributing these reductions in distress to coming

out to others (D’Augelli 1991; LaSala 2000; Stevens 2004;

Vargo 1998). Other studies have linked greater outness with

psychological well-being and improved quality of life

(Halpin and Allen 2004; LaSala 2000; Monroe 2001; Savin-

Williams 2001), as well as greater positive affect (Halpin

and Allen 2004; Jordan and Deluty 1998; Monroe 2001;

Vargo 1988). High self-esteem and greater outness have

additionally been linked (Halpin and Allen 2004; Monroe

2001; Savin-Williams 2001). Increases in strength/courage

have also been associated with greater outness (Evans and

Broido 1999; Monroe 2001; Stevens 2004), and some

studies have reported that coming out leads to perceived

improvements in social skills (Coleman 1981/1982; Savin-

Williams 2001). Although not explicitly framed as SRG,

data from these studies clearly demonstrate subjective

experiences of growth associated with coming out to others,

providing substantive evidence of the existence of COG and

providing important clues to the nature of these experi-

ences. Across roughly two dozen such investigations,

there has been consistency in the experiences of COG

described by sexual minority participants, reflecting five

domains: honesty/authenticity; personal/social identity;

mental health/ resilience; social/relational; and advocacy/

generativity (Vaughan 2007). Similar conceptualizations of

the positive aspects of being gay or lesbian have been

independently found within a recent qualitative study by

Riggle et al. (2008).

Perceived gains in honesty and authenticity, as a result

of coming out, represent the first domain of COG identified

in this literature. Discussed both in major theories of

identity development (Cass 1979; Lee 1977; Troiden 1979)

and qualitative studies (e.g., LaSala 2000; Lasser and

Tharinger 2003; Savin-Williams 2001; Stevens 2004), the

connection between disclosure and feeling more real and

true to one’s self has received broad support. These find-

ings are consistent with earlier work on self-disclosure,

which has associated the sharing of personal information

with a sense of congruence between one’s personal and

social selves (Jourard 1968, 1971). With respect to the

second domain of personal/social identity growth, greater

outness repeatedly has been correlated with a strong,

positive, and/or integrated sexual minority identity (e.g.,

Miranda and Storms 1989; Mohr and Fassinger 2000;

Coming Out Growth 95

123

Rosario et al. 2001). Sexual minority individuals have also

directly reported that coming out has helped them to

strengthen and transform their personal and social identi-

ties in positive ways (e.g., Morris 1997; Oswald 2000;

Savin-Williams 2001; Stevens 2004). Other researchers

have indicated that coming out has promoted greater

internal acceptance and validation of their sexual minority

identities (e.g., Rosario et al. 2001; Savin-Williams 2001;

Troiden 1993). Strengthening of one’s social identity as a

sexual minority has also been associated with greater

involvement in and attachment to the LGBT community

(Bonet et al. 2007; Morris et al. 2001; Rosario et al. 2001;

Savin-Williams 2001; Stevens 2004).

Coming out to others has also been associated with

beneficial changes in perceived mental health and well-

being (Berzon 1979), including reductions in anxiety and

increases in self-esteem (LaSala 2000; Monroe 2001;

Savin-Williams 2001; Vargo 1998). Gains in subjective

well-being and life satisfaction have also been widely

reported (LaSala 2000; Savin-Williams 2001; Vargo 1998),

including descriptions of emotional relief and liberation

(Monroe 2001). Sexual minorities have also identified

increases in coping resources and resilience as a result of

coming out (Monroe 2001; Rhoads 1995), including gains

in courage, strength and reductions in use of drugs/alcohol

as a coping mechanism (Monroe 2001).

Social and relational gains, the fourth domain, have also

been linked to greater outness, as individuals who are more

out typically report higher levels of perceived social sup-

port (Oswald 2000; Savin-Williams 2001; Stevens 2004).

Consistent with this finding, sexual minorities have

described coming out as both increasing their access to

potential sexual and/or romantic partners (Morris 1997;

Savin-Williams 2001; Troiden 1993) and supporting the

development of stronger/closer relationships with friends,

family, and/or one’s partner (LaSala 2000; Lewis et al.

2001; Monroe 2001). For others, growth experiences from

coming out took the form of increased assertiveness in

setting healthier boundaries or withdrawing from unhealthy

relationships (LaSala 2000; Lee 1977; Monroe 2001). As

the fifth domain of COG, coming out to others can lead to

positive shifts in how LGBT individuals perceive other

sexual minorities and their contributions to society (Franke

and Leary 1991; Stevens 2004). Externally, these shifts in

attitudes lead to a greater interest in the role of advocate,

working to change sexual prejudice on an individual and

community level (Evans and Broido 1999; Monroe 2001),

or finding ways to mentor or otherwise support other sexual

minorities (Bonet et al. 2007). Despite the methodological

differences between these studies, this body of empirical

literature and several theoretical models of lesbian and gay

identity development (e.g., Cass 1979; Coleman 1981/

1982; Lee 1977; Troiden 1979) collectively describe

experiences of COG in the five broad domains of honesty/

authenticity, personal/social Identity; mental health/resil-

ience; social/relational; and advocacy/generativity.

Shortcomings and Opportunities in the Study of COG

Unfortunately, these five domains of COG have yet to

receive in-depth empirical attention within either the lit-

erature on sexual minority identity development or the

broader literature on SRG. Although providing rich

descriptions of COG and correlational data supporting the

link between outness and psychological gains, the identity

development literature has not yet systematically studied

these experiences using methods comparable to those

found in the positive psychology literature (e.g., stan-

dardized measures of SRG developed or validated for a

given population). Although it has been noted that ‘‘SRG

may be a particularly salient construct when used to

explore inherent characteristics such as sexual orientation’’

(Bonet et al. 2007, p. 12), serious questions have also been

raised regarding the applicability of existing measures of

SRG to the study of growth associated with the sexual

minority experience. These concerns are especially rele-

vant to the study of COG, as existing measures of SRG

(e.g., stress-related growth scale: Park et al. 1996; Post-

Traumatic Growth Inventory: Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996)

fail to fully represent the breadth of growth experiences

identified in the qualitative literature on COG (e.g., gains in

honesty/authenticity, personal/social identity). These defi-

cits have led several authors (Bonet et al. 2007; Park and

Lechner 2006) to note the inadequacy of current measures

of SRG to assess experiences such as COG, and call for the

development and validation of ‘‘a scale that more closely

taps into the positive experiences associated with coming

to terms with one’s sexual identity’’ (Bonet et al. 2007, p. 12).

Statement of the Problem

The present investigation sought to advance the under-

standing of COG through the development and validation

of a measure specifically designed for this purpose. This

measure was developed to explore the nature of COG,

including the dimensional structure of experiences of

growth, and the relationship between COG and relevant

constructs within the SRG and sexual minority develop-

ment literature. Consistent with major findings in both

bodies of literature, it was anticipated that COG would

demonstrate a multidimensional structure that captures

experiences within each of the five identified domains of

COG (Vaughan 2007). As experiences of COG reflected a

specific type of SRG, it was also anticipated that COG

would mirror SRG with respect to relationships with other

characteristics and perceptions (e.g., positive associations

96 M. D. Vaughan, C. A. Waehler

123

with dispositional optimism, perceived stress, higher levels

of COG among lesbian women) and identity development

characteristics (e.g., positive relationships with outness,

and more advanced stage/phase of identity development).

Methods

Development of the Coming Out Growth Scale

Given the absence of a measure specifically designed to

assess experiences of COG and concerns raised about the

breadth of existing measures to assess growth from diverse

types of stress (Bonet et al. 2007; Park and Lechner 2006),

it was necessary to develop a measure of COG rooted in the

contributions of the sexual minority identity development

literature that would serve as a tool to explore questions

about the nature and function of COG. Following recom-

mendations of experts in scale design (Clark and Watson

1995; DeVellis 2003; Haynes et al. 1995; Worthington and

Whittaker 2006), a pool of 126 potential COG items were

developed to reflect each of the five core domains of COG.

An iterative process of creating, reviewing and editing was

employed to develop items for the coming out growth scale

(COGS), and items were evaluated based on both their

conceptual fit and psychometric properties. Based on rater

comments, the first author revised and condensed redun-

dant statements, producing a pool of 67 items, roughly

double the number needed for a 30–40-item scale that was

expected to reflect the five domains (Allen and Yen 1979/

1992; Crocker and Algina 1986; DeVellis 2003). All items

were worded in the positive direction, given that recent

evidence has demonstrated that negatively worded items

reflecting loss reflect experiences that are conceptually and

empirically distinct from SRG (Joseph et al. 2005).

A second group of expert raters rated items on rele-

vance, representativeness, and clarity/conciseness (DeV-

ellis 2003; Haynes et al. 1995) and were invited to

provide feedback and suggestions regarding wording,

redundancy or missing, and redundant items (Allen and

Yen 1979/1992; Clark and Watson 1995; Crocker and

Algina 1986; DeVellis 2003; Kahn 2006; Worthington

and Whittaker 2006). Each of the five COG domains was

presented in counterbalanced order to the expert raters.

Items that received an average rating of less than a 4.0

out of 5.0 on any of the three scales (relevance, repre-

sentativeness, and clarity/conciseness), as well as items

that were evaluated as otherwise problematic or redun-

dant, were reviewed. Final decisions about COGS items

were made by consensus between the second team of

experts and the researcher, rooting final decisions in the

extant theory and research on the coming out process and

considering suggestions for rewriting or adding additional

items. The resulting 36-item measure consisted of: six

honesty/authenticity growth items; six identity growth

items; seven items reflecting gains in mental health/

resilience; nine relational/social growth items; and eight

items reflecting gains in advocacy/generativity, all arran-

ged in random order (See Appendix 1).

Additional Instruments

The Outness Inventory (OI: Mohr and Fassinger 2000) was

used to measure the degree to which an individual’s

minority sexual orientation is known by others. The OI is a

10 item, 7 point Likert-type scale of outness across 10

social roles. Scores range from 10 (not out at all) to 70

(totally out across multiple domains). OI scores may be

calculated for any of the three subscales, or used as an

overall index of global outness by calculating the mean of

the three subscales. Evidence for both the reliability (Bal-

sam and Szymanski 2005; Goodman et al. 2005; Todosij-

evic et al. 2005) and validity of this scale has been

provided elsewhere (Goodman et al. 2005; Mohr and

Fassinger 2000, 2003). The alpha for global OI score in this

study was .72. The OI was selected for use in this study in

order to explore the link between overall outness and levels

of growth and has been widely used as an index of dis-

closure in LG populations.

Stress-Related Growth Scale-Short Version (SRGS-S:

Park et al. 1996) was used to assess overall SRG associated

with coming out to others, serving as a comparison tool

with the COGS. The SRGS-S is a 15-item, 3 point Likert-

type measure of stress-related growth that was adapted

from the original 50-item SRGS (Park et al. 1996), with

scores ranging from 0 to 30. The SRGS has been widely

used within the literature on SRG as a measure of growth

from a broad variety of stressful life events, including

stress related to lesbian and bisexual identity development

(Bonet et al. 2007). Evidence for both the reliability (Bonet

et al. 2007; Frazier et al. 2004; Park 2005; Park et al. 1996)

and validity (Park et al. 1996) of the measure has been

provided elsewhere within the stress and coping literature.

Within the present study, the internal consistency reliabil-

ity for the SRGS-R was .96. Consistent with Bonet et al.

2007, directions for the SRGS-S were modified to instruct

participants to respond to items with respect to the process

of coming out (disclosing their identity) to others.

The Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R, Scheier

et al. 1994) is a 10-item, 4-point Likert-type scale measure

that is used to assess dispositional optimism. The LOT-R is

based on the original 12-item LOT (Scheier and Carver

1985), which defines optimism as an individual’s general-

ized expectancies for positive outcomes. The LOT has been

widely used within the literature on stress and coping,

including SRG. Six of the 10 items of the LOT-R are used

Coming Out Growth 97

123

to compute a global score of dispositional optimism, with

scores ranging from 0 to 24 (the remaining four are non-

scored filler items). Evidence for both the validity (Davis

et al. 1998; Park et al. 1996; Scheier et al. 1994; Tedeschi

and Calhoun 1996) and reliability (Park et al. 1996; Scheier

et al. 1994) of the LOT/LOT-R has been well-established,

with reliabilities ranging from .82 to .87. The internal

consistency reliability for the LOT-R in the present study

was .88.

The Gay Identity Questionnaire-Revised (Fassinger

2001a) and the Lesbian Identity Questionnaire-Revised

(Fassinger 2001b) were used to assess participants’ phase/

stage of LG identity development. The GIQ-R and LIQ-R

are 40-item, 7 point-Likert-type scale measures of sexual

minority identity development based on McCarn and Fas-

singer’s 1996 model of lesbian identity development. The

LIQ and GIQ were developed specifically to assess for

developmental stage/phase as uniquely expressed in gay

men and lesbian women, and have been used repeatedly in

the sexual minority identity literature (Porter 1988; Swann

and Spivey 2004; Tomlinson and Fassinger 2003; Tozer

and Hayes 2004). The four stages/phases assessed by the

GIQ-R and LIQ are: awareness, exploration, deepening/

commitment, and internalization/synthesis. Scores can be

used to assign each participant an identity status based on

phase(s)/stage(s) in which they earn the highest score(s),

producing scores that range from 10 (low) to 70 (high) for

each phase. Alpha coefficients for the LIQ-R and GIQ-R

subscales have ranged from .47 to .88, with most in the .7

or higher range (Mohr and Fassinger 2000; Porter 1988;

Tomlinson and Fassinger 2003; Tozer and Hayes 2004).

Within the present study, alphas ranged from .76 to .91 for

the four LIQ-R subscales, and from .75 to .81 for the four

GIQ-R subscales. Validity evidence for the two scales has

been provided by several authors (McCarn and Fassinger

1996; Swann and Spivey 2004; Tozer and Hayes 2004).

The Balanced Inventory of Desirable Responding-

Impression Management Scale (BIDR-IM: Paulhus 1994)

was used as a measure of socially desirable responding in

the study. The BIDR-IM is a 20-item, 7-point Likert-type

subscale designed to measure intentional, conscious efforts

to present self in a favorable way (impression manage-

ment). The BIDR-R has been widely used in the literature

on SRG to assess the relationship between growth and

socially desirable responding. Based on the recommenda-

tions of Paulhus (1994), dichotomous scoring for the

BIDR-IM was used to identify individuals who demon-

strated highly socially desirable responding. Evidence for

both the reliability (Holden et al. 2000; Paulhus 1994;

Paulhus and Reid 1991) and validity (Holden et al. 2000;

Paulhus 1984, 1994) of the scale has been provided else-

where. Within the present study, the internal consistency

reliability for the BIDR-IM was .74.

Demographic Questionnaire and Additional Items

In addition to the above measures, all participants were

provided with a demographic questionnaire that included

several questions about their coming out experience,

developmental milestones, and involvement in the LGBTQ

community (Bonet et al. 2007; O’Donnell et al. 2002;

Peplau and Cochran 1981). The internal consistency reli-

ability for the three-item LGBT community involvement

scale was .82.

Data Collection

Procedure

Given that the preponderance of theory and empirical lit-

erature on COG has focused on self-identified lesbians and

gay men, the present study recruited self-identified lesbian

women and gay men who had disclosed their identities to at

least one significant person in their lives via e-mails and

posters to sexual minority social, political, and professional

organizations throughout the United States and Canada. It

was not possible to calculate the response rate for this study,

as those contacted were encouraged to forward the invita-

tion to other interested individuals or groups/organizations

who met the criteria for participation. Individuals were

informed that the study had been approved by the relevant

Institutional Research Boards and were provided contact

information for questions regarding the study. Participants

contacted via e-mail could click on a link provided within

the message to be taken directly to the study.

The survey was administered on the Internet via a secure

website to provide greater confidentiality/anonymity and

accessibility to participants and to provide a more diverse

and representative sample of individuals than traditional

research methods (Gosling et al. 2004; Murray and Fisher

2002; Skitka and Sargis 2006). Following the completion of

all other measures, participants were asked how they heard

about the study, and they were provided space to provide

additional comments/feedback about the study. Participants

were provided a debriefing page explaining the purpose of

the study and providing contact information for further

questions or feedback, and they were encouraged to share

the web address for the study with others who met

study criteria. All participants were treated in accordance

with the American Psychological Association’s ethical code

(APA 2002). The survey took approximately 25–35 min to

complete.

Participants

A total of 1,113 individuals responded to the survey, of

whom 959 (462 lesbian women, 490 gay men) met full

98 M. D. Vaughan, C. A. Waehler

123

criteria for participation in the study. Due to a technical

error, 39 participants (4.1% of the eligible LG participants)

who logged into the study during the first 26 h the study

was open were unable to complete all of the measures in

the study. Data from these participants were included in the

data set. Given the large size sample, the decision was

made to randomly split the data set (using SPSS) into two

portions. The first portion (N = 418) was reserved for the

EFA and all other analyses conducted in the present

investigation (henceforth referred to as the study sample).

The remaining portion of the dataset (N = 534) was

reserved for future analysis. Of the study sample of 418

participants, 219 (52.4%) were biologically male gay men,

196 (46.9%) were lesbians who were biologically female,

and three lesbian (.7%) were transgender (male-to-female)

women (see Table 1). Participants ranged in age from 17 to

95, with an average age of 35.50 (SD = 13.23).The

majority of participants (84.9%) were between the ages of

20 and 54. The demographics of the study sample were

similar to that of the full sample, suggesting that the study

sample was equivalent to the full sample of LG partici-

pants. With respect to education, participants ranged from

less than high school (N = 1, .2%) to doctorate/profes-

sional degree (N = 70, 16.7%), with the largest number of

participants reporting completing a master’s degree

(N = 112, 26.8%), a bachelor’s degree (N = 104, 24.9%)

or completing some college (N = 94, 22.5%). All four

major regions of the United States were represented within

the sample, with 34.2% living in the South (N = 143),

28.7% (N = 120) in the Midwest, 21.5% (N = 90) from

the West, and 12.2% (N = 51) from the Northeast. The

remaining ten participants (2.3%) lived outside of the

United States. Most participants reported living in subur-

ban (N = 187, 44.7%) or urban (N = 166, 39.7%) areas.

Results

Factor Analysis of the COGS

A total of 315 participants from the study sample com-

pleted the COGS. The mean global COGS score was

132.96 (SD = 30.24, Range 38–180, N = 315). Lesbian

women had a mean global COGS score of 130.32

(SD = 27.76, N = 156), and gay men had a mean score of

135.51 (SD = 32.47, N = 158) out of a possible 180

points. These scores indicate moderately high levels of

self-reported growth with coming out to others as lesbian

or gay (LG).

Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) with an orthogonal

(Promax) rotation was conducted on COGS data from the

315 participants who completed the measure. The KMO for

this sample was .95, exceeding the recommended mini-

mum cutoff value of .60 (Tabachnick and Fidell 2001;

Worthington and Whittaker 2006) for factor analysis. Ini-

tial communality estimates for COGS items ranged from

ĥ = .43 to ĥ = .79, ðx ¼ :36Þ; suggesting that the sample size was sufficient for EFA (Worthington and Whittaker

2006). Consistent with the recommendations of Wor-

thington and Whittaker (2006), multiple methods (e.g.,

eigenvalues, Scree plot) as well as guidelines regarding the

approximation of simple structure (high loadings on only

one factor) were used to evaluate the factor structure of the

COGS and items that had a minimum rotated factor loading

of .30 (Kahn 2006) and cross-loaded at or below the .15

level (Worthington and Whittaker 2006) were considered

by the authors for retention. Factors comprised of fewer

than three items were excluded from consideration, based

on the recommendations of Tabachnick and Fidell (2001).

An iterative process was used to explore one, two, three,

four, five and six -factor solutions for the COGS and

examine the meaningfulness and interpretability of these

structures. Although several solutions provided interpret-

able solutions, only the two-factor solution met all sug-

gested recommendations within a multi-factor solution.

Two items (#30 and #35) failed to load on only one factor

and were dropped from the measure. The resulting best fit

model incorporated two-factors of COG which accounted

for 50.90% of the variance in COGS scores, with the two

factors correlating .74. Factor 1 consisted of 22 items,

including four identity items, five social/relational items,

all seven mental health/resilience items, and all six hon-

esty/authenticity items. These items reflected experiences

of intrapersonal or individualistic aspects of growth,

Table 1 Descriptive data

Study sample (N = 418)

Variable N Percent

Sex

Biological women 196 46.9

Transgender women 3 .7

Biological men 219 52.4

Sexual identity

Lesbian 197 47.6

Gay 219 52.4

Race/ethnicity

African-American/Black 10 2.4

Asian/Pacific islander 8 1.9

Biracial/Multiracial 9 2.2

Caucasian/White 365 87.3

Latino/Latina 20 4.8

Native American 1 .2

Other 3 .7

Coming Out Growth 99

123

including gains in identity strength/comfort, enhancements

in existing relationships, and improved mental health and

well-being associated with coming out to others. This

factor was termed individualistic growth (IG). Scores on IG

ranged from 22 to 110, with a mean score of 82.41

(SD = 19.59). Lesbian women had a mean score of 80.99

(SD = 17.94, N = 156), and gay men had a mean score of

83.82 (SD = 21.11, N = 158). The internal consistency/

reliability (alpha) for the IG scale of the COGS was .96.

Factor 2 was comprised of 12 items, including all eight

advocacy/generativity growth items and four items tapping

into gains in existing relationships (social/relational

growth). This factor was named collectivistic growth (CG),

with scores ranging from 11 to 60 and a mean of 42.99

(SD = 10.55). Lesbian women had a mean score of 41.88

(SD = 10.64, N = 156), and gay men had a mean score of

44.06 (SD = 10.40, N = 158). The internal consistency

reliability (alpha) for the CG scale of the COGS was .88.

Scores on both scales were significantly correlated

(r = .75, p \ .001) with 56.25% shared variance accoun- ted for by these scores. Subsequent analyses of relevant

COGS scores include COGS-IG and COGS-CG scores, as

well as global COGS scores.

A total of 315 participants from the study sample com-

pleted the COGS. The mean global COGS score was 132.96

(SD = 30.24, Range 38–180, N = 315). Lesbian women

had a mean global COGS score of 130.32 (SD = 27.76,

N = 156), and gay men had a mean score of 135.51 (SD =

32.47, N = 158) out of a possible 180 points. These scores

indicate moderately high levels of self-reported growth with

coming out to others as lesbian or gay.

Convergent and Divergent Validity of the COGS

A one-tailed t-test revealed no significant differences

between lesbian biological women and gay biological men

on any of the three COGS scales (COGS-IG: t = 1.28, df =

313; COGS-CG: t = 1.84, df = 312; COGS-Global: t =

1.52, df = 312). The relationship between overall coming

out stress and COGS scores was non-significant for COGS-

IG (r = .06), COGS-CG (r = .11) and global COGS scores

(r = .09). There were positive, significant relationships

between COGS-IG and SRGS-S scores (r = .75, p \ .001), COGS-CG and SRGS-S scores (r = .58, p \ .001), and global COGS and SRGS-S scores (r = .73, p \ .001), sug- gesting significant concurrence between these two measures

of growth.

COGS scores demonstrated expected correlations with

other constructs typically studied in the literature on growth

from stress. That is, significant, positive correlations were

found between dispositional optimism and each of the three

COGS scales (COGS-IG: r = .25, p \ .001; COGS-CG: r = .16, p \ .01; COGS-global: r = .23, p \ .001). Level

of COG was significantly and positively related to overall

level of outness (COGS-IG: r = .30, p \ .001; COGS-CG r = .26, p \ .001; COGS-global r = .30, p \ .001), and time elapsed since beginning the coming out process

(COGS-global: r = .11, p \ .05; COGS-IG: r = .13, p \ .05; COGS-CG: r = .07, p = NS). COGS scores were

generally unrelated to the tendency to engage in impression

management, with non-significant relationships found

between BIDR-IM scores and reports of individualistic

growth (r = -.06, p = NS) and overall COGS (r = -.09,

p = NS) scores. There was a significant negative relation-

ship between IM and CG (r = -.12, p \ .05), indicating that individuals who scored high on impression management

reported lower levels of CG.

With respect to the relationship between sexual minority

identity development phase and COG, scores on identity

integration/synthesis were significantly and positively

associated with both dimensions of COG, both for lesbian

women (COGS-IG scores: r = .46, p \ .001; COGS-CG: r = .35, p \ .001; COGS-global COGS: r = .46, p \ .001), and gay men (COGS-IG scores: r = .43, p \ .001; COGS- CG: r = .40, p \ .001; COGS-global: r = .44, p \ .001). However, there was no evidence of a relationship between

scores on the deepening/commitment phase and level of

COG, either for lesbian women (COGS-IG: r = .06,

p = NS; COGS-CG: r = .04, p = NS; global COGS scores:

r = .07, p = NS) or gay men (COGS-IG: r = .07, p = NS;

COGS-CG: r = .10, p = NS; global COGS: r = .09, p =

NS).

A number of exploratory analyses were also conducted

in order to replicate preliminary findings related to COG

from work by Bonet et al. (2007). Analyses on the rela-

tionship between demographic variables and COGS scores

found no evidence of a significant relationship between

growth and educational level (Wilks’ Lambda [10,

616] = 1.25, p = NS) or race/ethnicity (Wilks’ Lambda

[2, 311] = .08, p = NS). Individuals who rated themselves

as more involved in the LGBT community reported sig-

nificantly higher levels of COG (COGS-global: r = .39,

p \ .01; COGS-IG: r = .36, p \ .01, COGS-CG: r = .46, p \ .01). Age at first consensual same-gender experience was also modestly related to reports of COG, with those

who had begun to behaviorally explore their same-sex

attraction at earlier ages, reporting higher levels of indi-

vidualistic growth (COGS-IG: r = -.15, p \ .01) and CG (r = -.19, p \ .01), although this relationship was not significant for global COGS scores (r = -.08, p = NS).

Discussion

The present study focused on investigating experiences of

stress-related growth associated with coming out to others

100 M. D. Vaughan, C. A. Waehler

123

as gay or lesbian, providing significant insight into the

ways in which sexual minorities experience growth as a

result of this process. As well, the present investigation

sheds light on how these reports of growth vary as a

function of other variables widely studied within the lit-

erature on stress and coping and the literature on sexual

minority identity development.

Levels and Dimensional Structure of COG

The results of this study provided broad support for the

concept that lesbians and gay men experience high levels

of stress-related growth from coming out and that these

multidimensional experiences of growth relate in expected

ways with measures of convergent and divergent validity.

Overall levels of reported COG were substantial, with an

average item score that reflected moderately high levels

of overall growth (3.7/5.0), and comparable scores on

COGS-IG (3.72/5.0) and COGS-CG (3.50/5.0). These

scores were similar to those found by Bonet et al. (2007),

who used the SRGS-S to assess growth from the entire

sexual minority identity development process, but were

substantially higher than those typically associated with

growth from traumatic stress (e.g., Koenig et al. 1998;

Park et al. 1996). The results here strongly suggest that

the coming out process can be conducive to experiences

of stress-related growth and that sexual minority indi-

viduals often transform the experience of minority stress

into opportunities for growth.

Consistent with depiction of SRG as a multidimensional

construct (e.g., Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996), experiences

of COG were best described as falling along two dimen-

sions. The individualistic growth dimension captured per-

ceived growth in three areas related to self-perception:

authenticity/honesty, biopsychosocial well-being, and per-

sonal sexual minority identity. In contrast, the collectivistic

growth dimension reflected positive shifts in perceptions of

others and self-in-relation to others: more LGBT-affirming

views, a sense of belonging, and a collective LG identity.

Although five domains of COG were initially identified

through a review of the sexual minority literature, the two

dimensional structure found in this study incorporated

aspects of all five of these areas, splitting items from the

identity domain across the factors according to their focus

on personal or social aspects of identity. Consistent with

modern models of sexual minority identity development

which separate the process of personal and social identity

development (e.g., McCarn and Fassinger 1996), these

results suggest that the process of coming out to others

provides two overlapping categories of benefits—

improvements in how individuals perceive or experience

themselves, and improvements in how they perceive their

LGBT peers and their relationships with these peers.

COGS-global and SRGS-S scores were found to be

moderately intercorrelated (r = .58–.75), with SRGS-S

explaining only 56.25% of the variance in COGS scores,

indicating that the two measures capture related, yet dis-

tinct, experiences of growth. These results suggest that

COG cannot be simply reduced to experiences of SRG as

measured in the literature on stress and coping; rather,

COG appears to represent a unique growth process not

fully incorporated into existing measures of SRG. In con-

trast to the types of growth captured by existing measures

of SRG, the COGS attempts to capture growth experiences

not typically discussed in the SRG literature. These

reported gains reflect specific strengths associated with the

process of confronting and working through heterosexism

en route to building a positive minority identity. Within

COGS-IG scores, individuals acknowledged gains in social

skills and social comfort, a stronger personal identity, and

improvements in existing romantic relationships, consistent

with growth experiences described within major theories of

sexual minority identity development and the qualitative

literature on coming out. A similar theme emerged within

the COGS-CG, as this scale incorporated shifts in beliefs

about sexual minority individuals, greater access to

romantic/sexual partners, a newfound sense of belonging or

community, a stronger social identity, and an enhanced

commitment to advocacy, each of which have been broadly

acknowledged in the sexual minority identity development

literature. Although the SRG literature has acknowledged

gains in relationships and increased interest and involve-

ment in advocacy in response to a traumatic event, these

experiences have rarely (until now) been incorporated

into quantitative measures of SRG (Park et al. 1996;

Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996). At the same time, given the

preliminary nature of these findings, replication of the two-

factor structure within a separate sample using confirma-

tory factor analysis will be important before definitive

statements about the structure of COG can be made.

COG and Related Constructs

In this study, COGS scores were largely unrelated to

socially desirable responding, consistent with studies in the

SRG literature that have found non-significant or small,

negative correlations between these constructs (Park et al.

1996; Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996). Supporting both the

convergent and divergent validity of the COGS, scores

were positively related to, yet empirically distinct from,

dispositional optimism. The magnitude of this relationship

was consistent with those found in the SRG literature

(Linley and Joseph 2004; Park and Fenster 2004), indi-

cating that reports of COG are not wholly due to the ten-

dency to anticipate favorable outcomes or to engage in

‘yea-saying’ behavior.

Coming Out Growth 101

123

One expectation from the SRG literature that did not

receive support was that women would report higher

overall levels of COG than men (Linley and Joseph 2004).

Gender differences in SRG consistently have been linked

to specific personality traits that include emotional

expressiveness, agreeableness, and openness to new expe-

riences (e.g., Jaarsma et al. 2006; McCrae and Costa 1986;

Tashiro and Frazier 2003; Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996).

However, a recent meta-analysis (Lippa 2005) indicated

that gay men and lesbian women demonstrate fewer per-

sonality differences from their heterosexual peers and from

each other in these areas. As the claiming of a sexual

minority identity and the coming out process have long

been linked to rejection of traditional gender roles (de-

Monteflores and Schultz 1978; Troiden 1989), the fact that

the lesbian women and gay men in this study reported

similar levels of COG may indicate that gender-related

differences typically found in SRG are a function of per-

sonality differences typically associated with gender, rather

than biological sex itself.

Sexual Minority Constructs and COG

There was also substantial (although not entirely consis-

tent) evidence that greater exposure to coming out stress

led to higher levels of COG, suggesting that the relation-

ship between level of stress and level of growth may be

quite complex. Future research should explore this rela-

tionship through more sophisticated measures of stress

(e.g., centrality, threat, severity; Armeli et al. 2001) and/or

measures of minority stress specifically designed for this

population (e.g., measure of gay-related stressors; Lewis

et al. 2001). Navigating the coming out process over

multiple years may provide additional opportunities to

experience and/or recognize experiences of growth, espe-

cially as one gains a sense of competence or comfort with

one’s coping skills. The results of the present study suggest

that greater outness leads to greater growth, as individuals

who had more widely disclosed their identities, as well as

those who had been involved in the coming out process for

a longer period of time, tended to be more immersed in the

process of sexual minority identity development. Consis-

tent with these findings, individuals in later phases of

sexual minority identity development reported higher lev-

els of COG, particularly for lesbians and gay men in the

internalization/synthesis phase. Although models of LG

identity development (e.g., Cass 1996; McCarn and Fas-

singer 1996; Sophie 1985/1986) have widely referenced

experiences of growth beginning in the middle stages/

phases of this process, the present finding is consistent with

Erikson’ s (1959, 1970, 1982) assertion that the full ben-

efits associated with the identity crisis are only fully real-

ized within identity integration.

Involvement in the LGBT community was also found to

predict level of COG, replicating findings from Bonet et al.

(2007). As several items within the collectivistic growth

scale (#3, 5, 10, and 25) tap into perceived gains in social,

sexual, or romantic relationships with other sexual minor-

ities, it is not surprising that scores on this scale were

positively associated with overall community involvement.

However, the relationship between COG and community

involvement was also significant for the individualistic

growth scale. As involvement in the sexual minority

community has been linked to coming out both as a

facilitator of disclosure and as an outcome of greater out-

ness (Cass 1996; Coleman 1981/1982; Lee 1977; Sophie

1985/1986; Troiden 1993), there may be a bi-directional

relationship between these constructs. It is also possible

that this relationship may be conflated with certain per-

sonality characteristics (such as extraversion), which may

moderate or mediate the relationship between community

involvement and COG.

The results of the present study are also consistent with

links between integration and overall psychological

adjustment (Mohr and Fassinger 2003; Morris et al. 2001;

Rosario et al. 2001), signifying identity integration as a

powerful positive force in the lives of these sexual

minorities. However, given the small number of individu-

als in the study who scored highly on phases other than

internalization/synthesis, the statistical power of these tests

is limited and these should be replicated in future studies in

order to best determine the relationship between identity

stage/phase and experiences of COG.

Several additional analyses were conducted within this

study to ascertain whether experiences of COG may be related

to other aspects of sexual minority identity development.

Individuals who had begun to explore their sexuality

with same-sex others at earlier ages reported higher levels

of COG. These correlations were consistent with Bonet

et al. (2007), suggesting that early sexual experience may

function as a marker of an early onset of identity explo-

ration and pave the way for creating a strong sexual

minority identity that produces coming out growth later in

life. Alternatively, the relationship between sexual explo-

ration and COG may be explained by differences in per-

sonality characteristics among individuals who experience

both early exploration and coming out growth, as openness

to experience has been consistently related to SRG (Costa

and McCrea 1986; Jaarsma et al. 2006; Shakespeare-Finch

et al. 2005; Tedeschi and Calhoun 1996). Individuals high

on openness may be more able or willing to explore

unfamiliar experiences on an emotional, physical, and

psychological level, creating more opportunities to expe-

rience growth. As such, openness may serve as a mediator

of the relationship between same-sex sexual exploration

and COG, warranting further exploration.

102 M. D. Vaughan, C. A. Waehler

123

In contrast to Bonet et al.’s (2007) findings, neither

sexual minorities with greater education nor those who

were identified as racial/ethnic minorities reported higher

levels of growth associated with the process of developing

a sexual minority identity. As several authors have sug-

gested that colleges and universities may provide a more

tolerant environment to explore sexual minority identities

and connect to the sexual minority community (e.g.,

D’Augelli 1991; Evans and Broido 1999; Rhoads 1995),

these findings were unexpected. Given that the present

sample consisted largely of individuals with high levels of

education (e.g., 84.2% had at least attended college, it is

also possible that there may have been an insufficient

sample size to detect mean differences on COGS scores by

education.

The relationship between race/ethnicity and COG has

received little attention. There is evidence that disclosure is

less common among racial/ethnic minorities due to stigma

(Grov et al. 2006; Herek 2003; Rosario et al. 2004). Several

authors (e.g., Floyd and Bakeman 2006) have argued that

coming out may be less important to the development of a

healthy sexual minority identity development for racial/

ethnic minorities, possibly due to increased stigma

regarding gay and lesbian identities within many racial/

ethnic minority communities.

Limitations and Directions for Future Research

Future research on COG should seek to address the limi-

tations of the present study, as well as expand on under-

standing the nature of COG and its potential impact on the

lives of sexual minorities. As the present investigation

focused on COG within lesbian and gay populations, it will

be important that future research on this phenomenon

explore if and how other types of sexual minorities (e.g.,

bisexual and transgender individuals—Knous 2005; Ochs

1996; Rust 2000, 2002) experience growth, and how these

experiences may differ with respect to the unique experi-

ences of these populations (Moradi et al. 2009). Although

the present sample was relatively large, geographically

diverse and included participants across a wide age range

(17–85), only 12% of the sample self-identified as racial/

ethnic minorities and only one-third of the participants had

less than a four-year college degree. As such, it is unknown

whether the present sample is representative of the larger

population of out LG individuals. Previous research has

indicated that samples recruited from sexual minority

organizations/groups may be more out than their peers

(Quartaro and Spier 2002), and the present sample was

heavily slanted toward individuals in the integration/syn-

thesis phase/stage of LG identity development, which may

have reduced variability in the sample and attenuated

correlations that would have otherwise been significant.

Given the cross-sectional, retrospective nature of the

present study, the results of this investigation bear repli-

cation, ideally within a longitudinal, prospective design

that would allow researchers to study how COG unfolds

over time and explore causal pathways between relevant

identity and SRG constructs (e.g., personality, perceived

stress, coping strategies, identity phase/stage, outness,

psychological well-being). More complex methods of

assessing the impact of coming out on individuals should

also be utilized in future research, including assessments of

perceived threat, severity, and/or ‘‘centrality’’ of the

stressful event (Armeli et al. 2001) as well as instruments

specifically designed to assess minority stress (e.g., the

measure of gay-related stressors: Lewis et al. 2001). The

degree to which the process of disclosing one’s identity to

others was voluntary may also serve as a mediator or

moderator of COG and should be included in future

research.

Summary and Conclusions

The results of the present investigation regarding the nature

of coming out growth revealed a host of findings that

provide evidence for a two-dimensional structure of COG,

as well as the relationship between COG and relevant LG

identity and SRG constructs. Results of this study provided

strong support for the concept that COG is a common

experience for sexual minorities. Experiences of COG as

measured by the COGS were somewhat distinct from those

typically discussed in the literature on SRG, reflecting the

unique stresses and rewards of coming out to others that

have been widely documented, but not formally studied in

the sexual minority literature. The present findings also

provided broad support for the construct of COG, in that

experiences of COG were distinct from socially desirable

responding and optimism while being substantially related

to another measure of SRG, as well as coming out stress,

identity development, and outness. Given the dearth of

research explicitly exploring the nature of COG and its

impact on the lives of sexual minorities, the results of the

present study hold significant promise in developing a

more thorough understanding of the life experiences of

sexual minorities with respect to the impact of coming to

others. By rooting this research in relevant literature on

SRG and identity development to provide a more coherent

theoretical framework for the study of COG, this initial

report on the COGS provides evidence that it is psycho-

metrically sound, multidimensional measure of growth

from coming out that can be used to advance a deeper

understanding of the strengths and potential for growth

among sexual minorities.

Coming Out Growth 103

123

We hope that the COGS and its various applications will

help promote a more in-depth understanding of the positive

effects of coming out as a sexual minority as a unique

expression of positive psychology within this population.

Given the widespread calls within the sexual minority liter-

ature to better understand sexual minority strengths, growth,

and resilience and to develop measures to assess unique

aspects of the experiences of sexual minority individuals

(e.g., Bonet et al. 2007; Moradi et al. 2009), the COGS

represents a tool that is uniquely suited to promote these

goals. As part of a larger focus on LGBT-affirming research,

the study of COG may hold particular promise in developing

a deeper understanding of how sexual minorities exhibit

resilience by successfully adapting in the face of significant

risk or adversity (Riggle et al. 2008). Given growing interest

in sexual minority stress and its relationship to health dis-

parities with respect to rates of depression, suicidality, and

substance abuse/dependence (Meyer 1995, 2003), it is

important to explore how experiences of COG may serve as a

protective factor in coping with subsequent experiences of

minority stress, potentially reducing or eliminating the

negative effects of such stresses on mental health.

APPENDIX 1

Directions: Based on your own experiences of sharing your

lesbian or gay identity (‘‘coming out’’) to others in your

life, please indicate how this experience has directly

impacted your life by choosing the response that best

describes your experience.

As a result of coming out to others.

Coming out growth scale (COGS: Vaughan 2007)

1 2 3 4 5

Not at all/not applicable A little bit Moderately Quite a bit A lot

1. I am more satisfied with the amount of social support

I have in my life. (IG)

2. I have come to see other lesbian/gay people in a more

positive light. (CG)

3. I have greater access to potential romantic partner(s).

(CG)

4. I feel less pressure to be dishonest about who I am

attracted to/dating. (IG)

5. I feel like I ‘‘fit in’’ better with other lesbian and gay

(LG) people. (CG)

6. I am more aware of the contributions gay/lesbian

people have made to society. (CG)

7. I stand up for myself more within my relationships.

(IG)

8. I am more comfortable with being lesbian/gay. (IG)

9. I have greater access to potential sexual partner(s).

(CG)

10. I feel less pressure to dress or act according to gender

stereotypes. (CG)

11. I have challenged others’ stereotypes about lesbian/

gay people. (CG)

12. I have experienced positive changes in my relation-

ship(s) with my partner(s). (IG)

13. I became more interested in social/political issues

affecting lesbian/gay people. (CG)

14. I am more aware of negative treatment of lesbian/gay

people in society. (CG)

15. I have more happiness and/or joy in my life. (IG)

16. My lesbian/gay identity feels like a more important

part of who I am. (IG)

17. I have experienced positive changes in my relation-

ships with straight people. (IG)

18. I feel more complete or whole as a person. (IG)

19. I began to question ‘‘traditional’’ heterosexual values

and norms. (CG)

20. I feel more comfortable interacting with other people.

(IG)

21. I believe I cope better with stress related to my

lesbian/gay identity. (IG)

22. My self-confidence has increased. (IG)

23. Overall, my life feels less stressful. (IG)

24. I have become more involved in activities or

organizations focused on lesbian/gay issues. (CG)

25. I have become a stronger/more courageous person.

(IG)

26. I feel less pressure to be dishonest about my lesbian/

gay identity with others. (IG)

27. My lesbian/gay identity feels more real/valid to me.

(IG)

28. I respect myself more. (IG)

29. I have a stronger lesbian/gay identity. (–)

30. I have become more honest with important people in

my life. (IG)

31. I am more free to be myself. (IG)

32. I have challenged my own stereotypes about lesbian/

gay people. (CG)

33. I feel more genuine or authentic as a person. (IG)

34. I have experienced positive changes in my relation-

ships with other lesbian/gay people. (–)

35. I am more comfortable discussing my lesbian/gay

identity with others. (IG)

See Table 1

APPENDIX 2

See Tables 2 and 3

104 M. D. Vaughan, C. A. Waehler

123

Table 2 Initial communality estimates for COGS EFA

COGS item Communality

1. Satisfaction with social support .47

2. See other LG people in a more positive light .56

3. Greater access to romantic partner(s) .74

4. Less pressure to be dishonest about attractions/dating .60

5. Feel like I ‘‘fit in’’ with LG people .64

6. More aware of contributions of LG people .59

7. Stand up for self more in relationships .53

8. More comfortable being LG .65

9. Make better choices about health behaviors .47

10. Greater access to sexual partner(s) .72

11. Less pressure to adhere to gender stereotypes .44

12. Challenged others’ LG stereotypes .44

13. Positive changes relationship(s) with partner(s) .42

14. More interested in LG social/political issues .64

15. More aware of negative treatment of LG people .58

16. More happiness and/or joy .73

17. LG identity is a more important part of me .58

18. Positive changes in relationships with straight people .59

19. Feel more complete/whole .78

20. Question ‘‘traditional’’ heterosexual values/norms .48

21. More comfortable interacting with others .68

22. Cope better with LG identity stress .68

23. Self-confidence increased .71

24. Life less stressful .61

25. More involved in LG activities/organizations .52

26. Stronger/more courageous .67

27. Less pressure to be dishonest about LG identity .68

28. LG identity feels more real/valid .70

29. Respect myself more .75

30. Stronger lesbian/gay identity .70

31. More honest with important people .66

32. More free to be myself .71

33. Challenged my own LG stereotypes .64

34. More genuine or authentic .79

35: Positive changes in relationships with LG people .73

36: More comfortable discussing LG identity .71

Table 3 Intercorrelations among COGS scores and key study variables

Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

a

1. COGS-global –

2. COGS-IG .97** –

3. COGS-CG .89** .75** –

4. Overall stress .09 .06 .11 –

5. Greatest

stress

.12* .12* .11 .56** –

6. SRGS-S .73** .75** .58** .08 .12* –

7. LOT-R .23** .30** .26** .07 .03 .11 –

Coming Out Growth 105

123

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Table 3 continued

Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

8. LIQ-R–D/C .07 .06 .04 .09 -.04 .18** -.01 –

9. LIQ-R–I/S .46** .46** .35** -.23** -.12 .24** .12 .20* –

10. GIQ-R–D/C .09 .07 .10 .14** .10* .20** -.08 –

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

b

11. GIQ-R–I/S .43** .43** .40** .05 .08 .32** .17**

12. OI .30** .30** .26** -.07 .05 .18* .12* -.25** .28** -.24**

13. BIDR-IM -.09 -.06 -.12* -.02 -.12* -.04 .13* -.11 -.01 -.02

14. Involvement .39** .36** .46** .03 .02 .23** .19** -.06 .27** .08

15. Age .05 .08 .02 -.09** -.18** .01 .24** -.28** .10* -.14

16. Sexual exp. -.08 -.15** -.19** -.02 -.04 -.06 -.08 .00 .15* -.05

17. Years out .11* .13* .07 -.17** -.16** -.01 .16** -.37** .23** -.23**

11 12 13 14 15 16 17

b

12. OI .12 –

13. BIDR-IM .08 -.09 –

14. Involvement .30** .26** -.06 –

15. Age .01 .25** .14* .11* –

16. Sexual exp. .07 -.02 .23** -.14** .23** –

17. Years out .01 .28** .05 .14** .76** .10 –

Note Valid N listwise = 154

(a): Overall stress: overall coming out stress; Greatest stress: stress from most stressful coming out experience.* p \ .05; ** p \ .01 (b): Involvement: LGBT community involvement; Sexual exp.: age at first consensual same-sex sexual experience. * p \ .05; ** p \ .01

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