Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Ram Cnaan, PhD

Second Advisor

Theo Burnes, PhD

Third Advisor

Linda Hawkins, EdD


In America’s privileged majority, one of the primary focuses of adolescence is to establish independence from the youth’s family of origin and develop primary attachment to an intimate partner. Unlike heterosexually identified youth, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (LGBTQ) youth receive limited support from society when developing their sexual orientation identity and same sex, intimate relationships. Furthermore, LGBTQ youth are exposed to an insufficient number of public, same sex relationships, have access to few supportive spaces to explore same sex sexuality and relationships, and are met with a societal understanding of relationship building that is entrenched in heterosexism. This societal oppression is concretely illustrated by the lack of consistent legal recognition of LGBTQ relationships in American society.

Informed by Bowlby’s attachment theory, this qualitative research study sought to understand how experienced societal oppression of gay, bisexual, and queer male identified adolescents impacted the attachment process and attachment security of same sex relational intimacy. Through the use of in depth interviews, fourteen, male identified, African-American young adults between the ages of eighteen through twenty-four provided relational narratives in an effort to understand the factors that contributed to their ability to form positive, secure attachment to intimate, same sex partners while contending with homonegativity. An understanding of the diverse ways in which gay, bisexual, and queer male identified youth maintained feelings of secure attachment to their same sex partner when contending with homonegativity was identified. These findings contribute to the understanding of resilience in the attachment process of LGBTQ youth.

Included in

Social Work Commons