Emotion Regulation in Context: Expressive Flexibility as a Stigma Coping Resource for Sexual Minority Men

Katie Wang, Anthony J. Maiolatesi, Charles L. Burton, Jillian R. Scheer, John E. Pachankis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although expressive flexibility (i.e., the ability to engage in expressive enhancement and suppression in accordance with situational demands) has been increasingly recognized as an important source of resilience, its role in the context of stigma coping remains underinvestigated. The present research examines the role of expressive flexibility as a potential buffer in the association between perceptions of sexual orientation–related discrimination and psychological distress among sexual minority men, a population facing significant mental health problems driven by stigma-related stress. A U.S. sample of sexual minority men (N = 377) completed self-report measures of perceived sexual orientation–related discrimination, expressive flexibility, and psychological distress. Cross-sectional analyses revealed that perceived sexual orientation–related discrimination was positively associated with psychological distress, but the relationship was attenuated for participants with high levels of expressive flexibility. Longitudinal analyses further showed that the association between discrimination and psychological distress measured 1 year later was significant for sexual minority men with very low levels of expressive flexibility. These findings highlight the role of expressive flexibility as an important resource for coping with sexual orientation– related discrimination and underscore the potential utility of enhancing expressive flexibility in stigma coping interventions that seek to improve sexual minority men’s mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-221
Number of pages8
JournalPsychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Coping
  • Emotion regulation
  • Expressive flexibility
  • Minority stress
  • Sexual minority men

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Psychology(all)

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