Testing the moderating role of victimization and microaggressions on the relationship between human-animal interaction and psychological adjustment among LGBTQ+ emerging adults

Camie A. Tomlinson1, Jennifer L. Murphy1, Joanne M. Williams2, Roxanne D. Hawkins3, Angela Matijczak1, Jennifer W. Applebaum4, & Shelby E. McDonald5

1School of Social Work, Virginia Commonwealth University
2School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh
3School of Education and Social Sciences, University of West Scotland
4Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law, University of Florida
5Children, Families, and Animals Research Group, LLC

Human-animal interaction (HAI) is associated with positive psychological adjustment. Although these benefits are hypothesized to be most pronounced for individuals who experience adversity and compromised social relationships, such as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other sexual/gender minority identities) individuals, this hypothesis has not been tested. The current, cross-sectional study examined whether the strength of the relationship between emotional comfort from companion animals and self-esteem and personal hardiness varies as a function of exposure to LGBTQ+ interpersonal stressors (i.e., victimization, microaggressions). Our sample included 155 LGBTQ+ emerging adults who lived with a dog and/or cat in the past year (Mage = 19.34 years, SD = 1.12 years). To test the hypothesis, we conducted simple and multiple moderation analyses. We found evidence that the magnitude of the association between comfort from companion animals and personal hardiness was greater for those who experienced high levels of interpersonal microaggressions. Similarly, victimization moderated the relation between comfort from companion animals and self-esteem. Including victimization and interpersonal microaggressions in the same model resulted in only one significant interaction effect: the relation between comfort from companion animals and self-esteem was positive at high levels of victimization and negative at low levels of victimization. Our results suggest that among LGBTQ+ emerging adults, the benefits of HAI on self-esteem were only present when high levels of victimization were reported. Future research should continue to examine factors that may influence the benefits and risks associated with HAI to identify for whom and under what circumstances HAI is beneficial.
Keywords: LGBTQ, companion animals, human-animal interaction, psychological adjustment, minority stress, victimization, microaggressions

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Keywords: companion animals, human-animal interaction, LGBTQ, microaggressions, minority stress, psychological adjustment, victimization
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