Sunday, June 5, 2022

Among singles, no significant differences in psychological distress by sexual identity; among partnered respondents, queer/pansexual women reported the highest distress & lesbian/gay women reported the lowest distress

Wilson, B. D. M., Krueger, E. A., Pollitt, A. M., & Bostwick, W. B. (2022). Partnership status and mental health in a nationally representative sample of sexual minorities. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 9(2), 190–200. Jun 2022.

Abstract: Research has consistently shown mental health differences between sexual minority subgroups with bisexual people often reporting higher levels of psychological distress than lesbians and gay men. Relationship status has been suggested, but not well studied, as a potential factor contributing to subgroup differences in mental health. Using a national probability sample of nontransgender sexual minority adults across three age cohorts (18–25, 34–41, 52–59 years), we assessed group differences in psychological distress (Kessler 6) between lesbian/gay (N = 505), bisexual (N = 272), and queer/pansexual (N = 75) respondents. We examined whether relationship status (single/partnered) moderated the relationship between sexual identity and psychological distress. Among those that were partnered, we tested whether key partner characteristics related to sexual identity—gender of partner (cisgender same-sex/transgender or cisgender different-sex) and partner sexual identity (same or mixed sexual orientation relationship)—were significantly associated with psychological distress. In bivariate analyses, bisexual and queer/pansexual respondents reported more psychological distress than gay/lesbian respondents, among both men and women. In multivariable analyses, there was not a significant main effect of sexual identity, but there was a significant interaction between sexual identity and partnership status on psychological distress among women. Specifically, while there were no significant differences in psychological distress between subgroups of single women, among partnered women, queer/pansexual women had more distress than lesbian/gay women. Further, partnership was associated with reduced distress among lesbian/gay women, but not among bisexual or queer/pansexual women. Among men, there were no significant interaction effects between sexual identity and partnership status on psychological distress. Being in a mixed orientation relationship, but not gender of partner, was a significant predictor of psychological distress among both women and men across sexual identities. Additional research should assess the partnership dynamics contributing to the association between partnership characteristics and mental health among sexual minority populations.

Masculine norms of emotional control predicted whether men followed CDC recommendations suggests that noncompliance with those recommendations may be a way of men demonstrating that they are not afraid

Mahalik, J. R., Di Bianca, M., & Harris, M. P. (2022). Conformity to masculine norms and men’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychology of Men & Masculinities, Jun 2022.

Abstract: The study examined men’s conformity to masculine norms as related to adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 as well as men’s attitudes toward mask wearing. Five hundred eighty nine participant men, predominantly White and heterosexual, completed the 10–15 min anonymous online survey through Prolific. After controlling for demographics, results indicated that the masculine norms of emotional control and power over women were related to less adherence to CDC recommendations; and that self-reliance, power over women, and heterosexual self-presentation were related to more negative attitudes toward mask wearing. Limitations and future research such as improving men’s participation in combatting COVID-19, and other public health crises, by addressing men’s specific salient masculine norms when developing and implementing public health outreach and prevention are discussed.

Impact Statement: The study examined men’s conformity to specific masculinity norms to predict their adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for combatting COVID-19 and their attitudes toward mask wearing. The findings can aid in public health efforts to improve men’s participation in combatting the pandemic and future public health crises.

The presence of feminine males in Samoa & Mexico, when masculine men are willing to engage in sexual activity with them, induces women to compete intersexually in comparable ways to intrasexual competition with rival women

Intra- and Intersexual Mate Competition in Two Cultures: A Comparison of Women’s Response to Mate Competition with Women and Gender-Nonbinary Males in Samoa and among the Istmo Zapotec. Scott W. Semenyna, Francisco R. Gómez Jiménez & Paul L. Vasey. Human Nature, Jun 3 2022.

Abstract: The present study examined women’s mate competition tactics in response to female and feminine-male rivals in two cultures in which competition against both occurs. In Samoa and the Istmo Zapotec (Southern Mexico), women not only compete with other women (intrasexually) but also compete with rival feminine males (intersexually) in order to access/retain the same masculine men as sexual/romantic partners. Using a mixed-method paradigm, women were asked about their experiences of intra- and intersexual mate competition, and these narratives were recorded. The tactics reportedly employed by participants, and those attributed to mate competitors, were categorized according to established taxonomies of mate competition tactics, and their frequencies compared. Within-culture, the likelihood that participant women had ever experienced intra- and intersexual mate competition did not differ. Furthermore, participants reported a similar pattern of behavioral tactics whether their rival was another woman or a feminine male. These included benefit provisioning tactics during mate acquisition and cost-inflicting tactics during mate retention. Similarly, the mate competition tactics attributed to rival women and rival feminine males bore a striking resemblance, focused on enticing target men. Results highlight the mate competition tactics employed by women outside of a Euro-American context, and the way cultural factors impact mating landscapes presumed to be exclusively heterosexual. The presence of feminine males, alongside masculine men’s willingness to engage in sexual activity with them, induces women in such cultures to compete intersexually in comparable ways to intrasexual competition with rival women.



Samoans in general, and often fa’afafine themselves, refer to fa’afafine using both masculine and feminine pronouns, even within the same narrative or sentence, as illustrated in this passage. This is not intended as a slur toward fa’afafine by participant women, nor is it taken as insulting by fa’afafine; it simply reflects the fact that fa’afafine are readily acknowledged as being natal males.

Semenyna et al. (2020) report data on intersexual mate competition (i.e., the second and fourth columns in the data tables). Data pertaining to intrasexual mate competition (i.e., the first and third columns in the data tables) have not previously been reported, analyzed, or compared with intersexual mate competition.

Much like Samoan women, Istmo Zapotec women would frequently vacillate between masculine and feminine pronouns when referring to a muxe.

Both those who perceived COVID-19 racial disparities to be greater & those who read more about those disparities (which reduced empathy) reported reduced fear of COVID-19 & less support for safety precautions

Highlighting COVID-19 racial disparities can reduce support for safety precautions among White U.S. residents. Allison L.Skinner-Dorkenoo et añ- Social Science & Medicine, Volume 301, May 2022, 114951.


• Tested relations with White US residents' awareness of COVID-19 racial disparities.

• Perceiving greater COVID-19 racial disparities predicted reduced fear of COVID-19.

• Exposure to information about COVID-19 racial disparities reduced empathy.

• Reduced empathy and fear of COVID-19 predict reduced support for safety precautions.

• Highlighting racial disparities may paradoxically perpetuate racial inequalities.

Abstract: U.S. media has extensively covered racial disparities in COVID-19 infections and deaths, which may ironically reduce public concern about COVID-19. In two preregistered studies (conducted in the fall of 2020), we examined whether perceptions of COVID-19 racial disparities predict White U.S. residents’ attitudes toward COVID-19. Utilizing a correlational design (N = 498), we found that those who perceived COVID-19 racial disparities to be greater reported reduced fear of COVID-19, which predicted reduced support for COVID-19 safety precautions. In Study 2, we manipulated exposure to information about COVID-19 racial disparities (N = 1,505). Reading about the persistent inequalities that produced COVID-19 racial disparities reduced fear of COVID-19, empathy for those vulnerable to COVID-19, and support for safety precautions. These findings suggest that publicizing racial health disparities has the potential to create a vicious cycle wherein raising awareness reduces support for the very policies that could protect public health and reduce disparities.

Keywords: Racial disparitiesCOVID-19Systemic racismPublic healthAttitudes

8. Discussion

In Study 2, we replicated the systemic knowledge findings from Study 1 and observed initial evidence that informing White U.S. residents of COVID-19 racial disparities can causally reduce fear of COVID-19 and support for safety precautions. Previous research had shown a similar pattern of results among White U.S. residents who reported relatively high racial biases (Harell and Lieberman, 2021Stephens-Dougan, 2021), but our findings—which were largely unmoderated by political orientation—suggest a more general phenomenon. We had speculated that framing COVID-19 racial disparities as a product of persistent health inequalities might serve as a buffer against this tendency, consistent with individual differences in systemic knowledge. However, we observed even less concern about COVID-19 when racial disparities were framed as a result of systemic inequalities. In addition, our exploratory mediation analysis provided suggestive evidence that the reduced fear and empathy for those vulnerable to COVID-19 that resulted from framing COVID-19 racial disparities as a product of persistent health inequalities, may have reduced support for safety precautions. Taken together, these findings point to the potential drawbacks of highlighting COVID-19 racial disparities among White U.S. residents.

8.1. General discussion

Our studies examined the association between White U.S. residents’ perceptions of COVID-19 racial disparities and their attitudes toward COVID-19. We hypothesized that those who perceived racial disparities in COVID-19 to be greater would be less concerned about COVID-19—as indicated by reduced fear and support for safety precautions. Indeed, both studies provided some evidence of this tendency. In Study 1, we observed that those who perceived COVID-19 racial disparities in the U.S. to be greater were less fearful of COVID-19, and our exploratory mediation was consistent with the notion that this may lead to reduced support for safety precautions. Our experimental manipulation (Study 2) provided evidence that informing White U.S. residents of COVID-19 racial disparities can reduce fear, empathy, and support for COVID-19 safety precautions. We postulated that framing COVID-19 racial disparities as a product of persistent health inequalities could undermine the tendency to justify the status quo (Kay et al., 2009) and help increase concern about COVID-19. However, our findings indicate that this framing further reduced fear and support for safety precautions—perhaps because this information signaled that these disparities were not just transitory epidemiological trends which could potentially shift and disproportionately impact White people in the future. In fact, our exploratory mediation analysis provided suggestive evidence that both reduced fear of COVID-19 and empathy for those most vulnerable may contribute to the observed reduction in support for safety precautions. Emerging evidence is consistent with this interpretation: White U.S. residents who perceived COVID-19 racial disparities to be a result of genetic susceptibility reported lower adherence to CDC COVID-19 safety recommendations (Crist and Schlegel, 2021). Our findings are also in line with trends observed in public opinion polls indicating that White U.S. residents increased their support for reopening the economy—in spite of public health risks—between late March and early June of 2020 (Cox, 2020), which corresponds with the release of data indicating racial health disparities in COVID-19.

Overall, individual differences in systemic knowledge of the contributors to COVID-19 racial disparities predicted greater fear of COVID-19, support for safety precautions, and empathy for those most vulnerable. Given the parallels between the systemic knowledge measure and the persistent inequalities framing condition, it may be surprising that these factors had opposing effects on our outcomes. However, the persistent inequalities article merely framed racial disparities as a product of persistent inequalities and did not provide extensive education on the systemically biased policies and practices that gave rise to persistent inequalities. The systemic knowledge measure, in contrast, captures a deeper understanding of systemic racism, consistent with prior work on theories of racial ignorance (e.g., Bonam et al., 2019Mueller, 2018Nelson et al., 2012Salter et al., 2018). Furthermore, supplementary analyses indicated that across both studies systemic knowledge was strongly correlated (rs > 0.70) with acknowledgement of systemic racism in the U.S. (Neville et al., 2000).

Examining the impact of efforts to address and educate people about population health disparities is critically important (Lewis et al., 2020), and our work is not the first to conclude that informing people of racial health disparities has the potential to backfire (Harell and Lieberman, 2021Lee et al., 2017Niederdeppe et al., 2008Stephens-Dougan, 2022). Experimental investigation of reactions to systemic inequality in an entirely different domain—the criminal justice system—has shown a pattern similar to our study, such that alerting White U.S. citizens of racial disparities in the criminal justice system reduced support for criminal justice reform (Hetey and Eberhardt, 20142018). Indeed, psychologists and communications scholars have argued that educating the public about systemic inequalities in a way that motivates (rather than depresses) health and social policy changes could be critical to addressing inequalities (Hetey and Eberhardt, 2018Niederdeppe et al., 2008). Previous scholarship has recommended the use of narratives and visual images in public communication about population health disparities; thus, incorporating these factors in future research may lead to more optimal outcomes (Niederdeppe et al., 2008).

Future work should also examine the generality of these findings across U.S. residents and messages about racial disparities. Although our data included White participants from all U.S. states and was fairly representative of the White U.S. adult population, our participants tended to be younger (residents 65+ were underrepresented) and had lower incomes than the median U.S. household (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019). It is also worth considering how discussions of disparities develop over the course of a public health crisis. For instance, the emergence of COVID-19 vaccines in early 2021—which were disproportionately received by White U.S. residents during the initial rollout (DiRago et al. in pressSacarny and Daw, 2021)—may have further reduced fear of COVID-19 and support for safety precautions beyond what we observed in our samples. Future work will also be critical for determining the extent to which the findings observed here generalize to other public health issues and messages about disparities. Even if the effects observed here do not generalize to all messages about racial disparities, the fact that some such messages can reduce public concern about health crises and dampen support for precautions among White U.S. residents should raise serious concerns. Future research that examines a broader stimulus set (Yarkoni, 2020) and considers how to publicly address racial and ethnic disparities without spurring these unintended consequences will be essential.