Date of Award

Summer 6-30-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Julia Perilla

Second Advisor

Dr. Gabriel Kuperminc

Third Advisor

Dr. Elisabeth Sheff

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Dominic Parrott


Research finds that intimate partner violence (IPV) occurs at comparable rates for heterosexuals and sexual minorities; however, few IPV prevention programs exist for sexual minority communities. Most programs are developed on heterosexuals and ignore the unique contexts and dynamics of IPV for sexual minorities. Community capacity IPV prevention programs aim to increase the skills and resources within informal social networks, and they represent a promising approach to IPV prevention for sexual minority communities. The current study explores the informal networks of sexual minorities in order to build knowledge that can inform the future development of community capacity IPV prevention programs for sexual minorities. The goal of the current study was to provide information on three major aspects of sexual minorities’ informal networks: network structure, network function, and the use of networks by sexual minorities experiencing IPV.

The study used a mixed method design. The quantitative component included an online survey completed by 367 sexual minorities. The survey asked with whom sexual minorities discuss their intimate relationships, and it asked the response and helpfulness of each member. These data illustrated the structure and function of informal networks. The study also included interviews with seven sexual minority women on their experiences of seeking help for IPV from their social networks. This information addressed the third aspect of informal networks.

The quantitative results revealed that sexual minorities turn to on average only three people to discuss relationship issues. Surprisingly, a substantial number were family, and almost half were heterosexual. The qualitative results illustrated that many informal networks members could benefit from receiving education on sexual minority identities and issues, IPV in sexual minority communities, and communication skills.

The findings illustrated key aspects of informal networks that can be used to inform future community capacity IPV prevention programs for sexual minorities. Specifically, the quantitative data on network structure and function can be used to inform relevant targets for future programs, and the data from the interviews can inform aspects of program curricula.

Included in

Psychology Commons