Date of Graduation

Spring 2017

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Research Sponsor

Toni L. Bisconti, Ph.D.

First Reader

Kevin P. Kaut, Ph.D.

Second Reader

Andrea A. Snell, Ph.D.


The goal of the present study is to examine the difficulties faced by sexual minorities who have lost their partners. More specifically, the impact of outness, relationship comfort, and social support on the bereavement process of same- and mixed-sex couples will be overviewed. The hypothesis of the present study is to examine whether social support, relationship comfort, and visibility mediate the relationship between sexual orientation and stress after the loss of a partner. In previous research, social support for the recently bereaved has been studied quite extensively; however, research has yet to examine sexual minorities and the specific hindrances this demographic may face. In order to test this, we have to first examine the correlation between sexual orientation and stress. If significant, we will test three separate mediation models using the aforementioned variables. Our inclusion criteria will be any adult over the age of 60 whose partner or spouse of at least 2 years has died and who is not currently in a relationship. Our predictor is sexual orientation. The mediators will include social support, visibility, and relationship comfort. The outcome will be a perceived stress measure. For hypothesis 1, we will be looking at the correlation between sexual orientation and stress for the entire sample. For hypotheses 2 through 4, a regression will be used in order to examine partial correlations between our predictor, respective mediators, and our outcome. Although the loss of a spouse has been extensively studied in the sexual majority population, there is a lack of research focused on the difficulties or resilience faced by lesbian and gay individuals who have lost their partners. This study will be a stepping stone to understanding the diverse ways in which sexual minority partners cope with the loss of a partner or spouse.